Quantum, Imation settle tape lawsuits

The two makers of tape-backup products have agreed to settle, ending a rancorous spat that has raised antitrust accusations and hobbled a newer tape standard.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
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Stephen Shankland
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Quantum and Imation, two makers of tape-backup products, have agreed to settle their lawsuits, ending a rancorous spat that had raised antitrust accusations and hobbled a newer tape standard.

The two companies had sued each other in October over a new format Quantum developed called Digital Linear Tape (DLT) and a successor called SuperDLT. Imation's suit expanded in December to include Maxell. Quantum sells tape drives and tape cartridges and licenses the tape format to companies such as Imation and Maxell that make tape cartridges.

Under the settlement, Quantum is paying Imation $5 million over 18 months and entering into a "multiyear business and supply agreement" about which the companies wouldn't release details.

In addition, Maxell is paying Imation an undisclosed sum, said Imation spokesman Brad Allen. More significant than those terms, however, is the fact that Imation will now be able to profitably sell certified DLT and SuperDLT products, Allen said.

In October, Imation accused Quantum of violating antitrust laws by thwarting Imation's efforts to produce DLT-compatible tape cartridges.

Quantum then countersued, saying Imation misappropriated Quantum trade secrets, and asked for an injunction to stop Imation from selling uncertified DLT cartridges. While the injunction forced Imation to pay royalties, it didn't prevent the company from selling the tapes.

In December, Imation expanded its antitrust suit to include the SuperDLT format in its complaint and named tape maker Maxell as a second defendant.

Quantum Chief Executive Michael Brown said the settlement boosts his company's DLT business and "avoids the expense of prolonged litigation."

Tape backup cartridges are an unglamorous but important part of corporate computing. The cartridges, capable of storing tens of gigabytes of information cheaply, are used to protect data in case of problems such as fires or server crashes.

Quantum and Imation's squabbling over DLT took place as other companies were pushing competing formats such as Linear Tape Open and Advanced Intelligent Tape (AIT) forward.

It's not the only legal wrangling in the storage market. Disk array makers EMC and HDS are suing each other over patent violations. Storage-networking switch makers McData and Brocade Communications Systems also are entangled in legal action.