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Sun v NetApp: Round 2

Sun has countersued Network Appliance in what's shaping up as a major confrontation, if not the storage technology lawsuit of the decade.

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz described Sun's legal action (a copy of which can be found here) in his blog yesterday. Sun is suing NetApp, he stated, to obtain -- are you sitting down? -- a permanent injunction to remove all NetApp filers from the marketplace and obtain "sizeable monetary damages." The action, which Schwartz says he's taking against his preference, is necessary because NetApp won't budge on its stance against Sun:

    [NetApp would] like us to unfree ZFS, to retract it from the free software community. Which reflects a common misconception among proprietary companies that you can unfree, free. You cannot... We're left with the following: we're unwilling to retract innovation from the free software community, and we can't tolerate an encumbrance that limits ZFS's value – to our customers, the community at large, or Sun's shareholders... So now it looks like we can't avoid responding to their litigation, as frustrated as I am by that (as I said, we have zero interest in suing them).

Schwartz vows to use any proceeds of court compensation to promote the open-source cause, specifically by donating to The Software Freedom Law Center, to a U.S. government project called Peer-to-Patent, and to the legal defense and venture funding of "free software innovators."

Sun's action is a response to NetApp's initial volley a few weeks ago. In that first motion (a copy of which can be found here, along with other documents pertaining to this case), NetApp accuses Sun of deploying technology NetApp says it patented. The technology was used in NetApp's foundation file system, Write Anywhere File Layout (WAFL), and in NetApp's RAID subsystem.

"It looks like ZFS [Sun's Zettabyte File System] was a conscious reimplementation of our WAFL filesystem, with little regard to intellectual property rights," stated Dave Hitz, NetApp founder and EVP in his own blog last month. NetApp is also seeking product injunctions and damages.

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