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HP hit with preliminary injunction in EMC spat

A U.S. district court judge orders Hewlett-Packard to immediately discontinue the alleged infringement of EMC's registered trademarks in the naming of HP products.

EMC has won the first round in a legal battle with Hewlett-Packard over the name of a data storage product.

U.S. District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro issued a preliminary injunction yesterday against Hewlett-Packard, ordering the firm to discontinue the alleged infringement of EMC's registered trademarks in the naming and marketing of HP products. Specifically, the order prohibits HP from further use of the letters "MC" in the names of any of HP's enterprise storage products.

The legal battle is the most acrimonious example of the falling-out between the two companies, which were staunch allies for three years when HP sold EMC's high-end data storage products along with HP's servers.

On May 5, HP supplanted the EMC products with similar models from Hitachi Data Systems, saying at the time that EMC's products were aging and inferior. Later, HP removed EMC products out of its offerings altogether.

EMC, for its part, has employed equally strong language about the HP products. Paul T. Dacier, EMC vice president and general counsel, said in a statement: "HP's attempt to confuse the market and illegally use EMC's famous name to market an inferior product is an insult to customers and a clear violation of our registered trademarks."

Both company's products come at the top end, designed to provide large customers with lots of high-speed storage that is available around the clock. Storage products are responsible for an increasingly significant portion of revenues from sales of new high-end computer systems, analysts say.

The partnership with HP began crumbling last fall, when HP sought to sell the EMC products under its own name instead of under EMC's, an approach EMC rejected but Hitachi accepted. Analysts have said the Hitachi products have caught up to EMC in function if not in market share.

After attempting to reach a resolution with HP, EMC filed the lawsuit June 25 in federal district court in Boston to protect its trademarks, the company said.

In his decision, Tauro wrote: "HP's new enterprise storage products--which include the letters 'E' and 'MC'--are likely to confuse prospective buyers as to the product's source."

HP resells the storage products from Hitachi under the formal name of the "HP SureStore E Disk Array MC256," but informally and in presentations has referred to the product as the "E MC256," said EMC spokesman Mark Fredrickson. He said it appears that HP is either deliberately trying to confuse customers or mislead them into thinking they're buying the EMC products.

HP had removed most of the "shorthand" E MC256 references from its Web site, Fredrickson said, but hadn't done enough to satisfy EMC and stop the lawsuit.

An HP spokesperson said HP hadn't had time to review the ruling and couldn't yet comment.

Fredrickson said that in arguments before the judge, HP said it would cost $100 million to change the name of the product.