Symantec sues Microsoft over storage tech

Lawsuit charges misappropriation of intellectual property, breach of contract over data storage technology.

Symantec has launched a suit charging Microsoft with misappropriating its intellectual property and with violating a license related to data storage technology.

The suit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle, seeks unspecified damages and an injunction barring Microsoft from using the Symantec technology, which would include a halt on Windows Vista and the Longhorn server, according to a copy of the filing.

"We are accusing them of misusing certain intellectual property that they had access to...and (saying) that they misused our intellectual property in operating system products," Michael Schallop, the director of legal affairs at the security company, said in an interview. It is the first time Microsoft and Symantec have been pitted against each other in court, he said.

The complaint involves Symantec's Volume Manager product, acquired as part of the company's takeover of Veritas Software. Volume Manager allows operating systems to store and manipulate large amounts of data.

Microsoft licensed a "light" version of Volume Manager from Veritas in 1996 and used it in Windows 2000, Schallop said. The Redmond, Wash., company then used it to develop functionality for Windows Server 2003, which competes with Veritas' Storage Foundation for Windows, Schallop said.

Microsoft also misuses Symantec's technology in Windows Vista and the Longhorn server release, Symantec charges in its complaint. It seeks an injunction to stop Microsoft from further developing, selling or distributing Vista, Longhorn server and all other infringing products, as well as a recall of all products already in the market, according to the complaint.

"The breaches of the agreement and IP violations began after Windows 2000...They were not allowed to use that intellectual property to develop products that compete against Veritas," Schallop said. "They have used our intellectual property in terms of trade secrets and source code to develop competing products."

Additionally, Schallop said, Veritas discovered about two years ago that Microsoft had filed patent requests based on Veritas' trade secrets. "They claimed they had invented something that they had not," he said.

Symantec and Microsoft have tried to resolve the dispute, but were unable to. "We recently agreed to disagree and let the courts help us resolve the dispute," Schallop said. "We think that we will prevail through trial."

A Microsoft representative confirmed the dispute and the attempts to reach an agreement outside of the courts. The argument stems from a "very narrow disagreement" over the terms of a 1996 contract with Veritas, the representative said in a statement.

"These claims are unfounded because Microsoft actually purchased intellectual property rights for all relevant technologies from Veritas in 2004," the representative said. "We believe the facts will show that Microsoft's actions were proper and are fully consistent with the contract between Veritas and Microsoft."

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