Tech Industry

HP, EMC file dueling storage suits

Hewlett-Packard sues EMC, saying the storage specialist has infringed seven HP patents relating to data storage. EMC quickly hits back with infringement claims of its own.

Hewlett-Packard sued EMC on Monday, saying the storage specialist has infringed seven HP patents relating to data storage, but EMC quickly countersued with infringement claims of its own.

Hewlett-Packard filed its suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, HP said in a statement. The alleged violations involve EMC's high-end Symmetrix storage systems, its midrange Clariion systems and its TimeFinder software that lets customers replicate data on different storage systems.

Before the day was over, EMC filed a countersuit in U.S. District Court in Worcester, Mass., alleging HP infringed six EMC patents, spokeswoman Ann Pace said.

"We're confident that we don't infringe and the suit is without merit," Stouse said.

Pace declined to comment on HP's suit until EMC has had time to examine it but said, "This looks to us like an act of desperation" triggered by competition and events such as EMC's hiring of Mark Lewis, a former top HP storage executive.

The seven patents in HP's suit against EMC cover transfering data between different storage formats, connecting servers to storage systems with switches, handling disk failure, presenting storage system details to servers, improving the efficiency of how arrays of hard drives read and write data, and connecting power to storage systems.

The six patents HP allegedly infringed relate to EMC's TimeFinder and SRDF software for mirroring data onto different storage systems; to technology for storing data from mainframe computers; and to moving data from one storage system to another, EMC said in a statement.

Patent battles have been cropping up all over the storage industry in recent months. EMC and its top rival, Hitachi Data Systems, have sued each other over patent issues, as have Brocade Communications and McData, which are entangled over storage networking equipment patents. Imation and Quantum, however, settled their suits.

HP tried but failed to resolve the patent concerns in discussions with EMC, HP spokesman Mark Stouse said.

The litigation doesn't affect an exchange between HP and EMC announced in July that lets each company's management software control the other's storage systems, Stouse said. The suit also doesn't involve Mark Lewis, a former top executive in HP's storage group who signed on at EMC in July.

HP is also involved in litigation with EMC that HP inherited through its 2001 acquisition of StorageApps.

EMC filed suit against Hitachi on April 11, alleging that its Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) subsidiary shipped software that infringed six EMC patents. EMC also asked the International Trade Commission to block the importation of the HDS software.

Hitachi countersued on April 17, saying EMC's Clariion and Symmetrix lines infringed eight of its patents and sought an injunction forbidding sales of the products.

Hitachi Data Systems' "Lightning" storage system line is the foundation of HP's top-end XP storage systems as well as Sun Microsystems' top-end 9000 line.

EMC denied the assertion. "This complaint did come out of the blue. They never approached us ahead of these filings today," Pace said.

HP stood by its statement. "They've known about their infringement for quite some time. Out of the blue is total disinformation," Stouse said. Stouse said the EMC countersuit filed against HP on Monday is a modified version of EMC's suit against Hitachi.