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Drive maker files counterclaims in patent suit

Cornice blasts Seagate's suit over patents for tiny hard drives used in portable gadgets.

Cornice, a maker of tiny disk drives, has counterpunched one of the industry giants that slapped it with patent-infringement lawsuits earlier this year.

Cornice on Wednesday said it filed counterclaims against Seagate Technology in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware in response to a patent infringement complaint filed by Seagate in June. The Longmont, Colo., company said it seeks a ruling that Seagate's patents are invalid, unenforceable, and not infringed upon by Cornice's products.

In addition, Cornice alleges that Seagate's lawsuit is "objectively baseless, in that no reasonable litigant would have brought such a suit, and that Seagate's actions constitute unfair competition and tortious interference under Colorado law, entitling Cornice to damages from Seagate."

A Seagate representative did not immediately return a request for comment.

Seagate and Western Digital have each sued Cornice alleging infringement of various patents related to disk drive technology. In addition, Seagate filed a patent infringement complaint against Cornice with the U.S. International Trade Commission, asking the trade commission "to exclude Cornice disk drives and any systems or products using or containing Cornice disk drives from entry into the United States." Cornice drives are manufactured in Asia.

Cornice is one of a handful of companies making drives an inch in diameter or smaller. Such drives are designed to be used in products such as music players and cameras. Tiny drives also are a fast-growing product category. According to research company TrendFocus, the market for such drives will expand from 923,000 units last year to about 3 million this year.

Cornice captured 28 percent of that market last year, according to TrendFocus. China-based GS Magicstor accounted for 30 percent, and Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, whose 1-inch drives are built into Apple Computer's iPod Mini, had 42 percent.

Seagate recently announced its own 1-inch drives.