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Storage Lawsuits: Will You Foot the Bill?

Intellectual property lawsuits are so much a part of the storage IT scene, it seems odd to think of a world without them. After all, protecting patents is part of doing technology business, isn't it? For end users, there's usually little impact -- right?

It may be time to reconsider these assumptions. As the level of patent litigation quietly escalates and storage becomes central to the functioning of IT, it's likely that sooner or later, storage customers will wind up helping to pay the price of at least one high-profile suit.

For one thing, patent litigation racks up huge legal fees. It is complicated and expensive and typically goes on for years. Cases are tough to win, and when they are judged, follow-up suits are nearly inevitable.

According to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, patent litigation has risen along with the number of patents awarded. Over the last 18 years, for example, patent litigation has increased by roughly 6 percent annually. In 2007, 2,896 total patent infringement cases went to the U.S. courts.

Of those, at least two -- NetApp v. Sun and Quantum v. Riverbed -- pertained directly to storage technology. And both remain unresolved, although Quantum has indicated it expects a trial date of February 2009 for its case against Riverbed.

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