StorageTek Looks to Bag Buzzword

Files for trademark on Information Lifecycle Management, but competitors cry foul

September 27, 2003

2 Min Read
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Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek) (NYSE: STK) has filed for trademark protection on the phrase "information lifecycle management," a move that's been roundly scoffed at by competitors who say it's already a generic industry term.

StorageTek's definition of information lifecycle management (ILM) -- which is pretty much everyone else's, too -- is that it's a process that aligns information with the appropriate point along the storage hierarchy (see ILM Remains Illusory).

Now, StorageTek wants to be the sole proprietor of ILM. However, it's too soon to see whether the trademark will be granted, says spokesman Bob Wientzen, noting that the process can take as long as two years. For now, though, the company is including the symbol every time it refers to "Information Lifecycle Management" in its marketing literature.

Other storage vendors, several of which have been using ILM in their own marketing campaigns, say StorageTek's plot to commandeer the term is ludicrous.

"Our opinion is that StorageTek trying to trademark 'information lifecycle management' is like trying to trademark an industry trend," says EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) spokeswoman Anne Pace. "It would be like Ford trying to trademark 'SUV.' " [Ed. note: Or Fox News trying to trademark "Fair & Balanced".]At recent industry events, EMC CEO Joe Tucci has referred to products in the "information lifecycle management" area as being a key part of the company's strategy (see EMC Salivates Over Software and EMC CEO Sees Slow Turnaround).

Similarly, Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) has launched a major campaign to provide "information lifecycle management" solutions (see HP Debuts ILM Strategy). In fact, HP has appointed one Rusty Smith its brand-new "director of information cycle management."

Needless to say, Smith doesn't think StorageTek has a leg to stand on.

"We've been talking about this for years," he says. "We used the term 'lifecycle data management' before, but we changed it to 'information lifecycle management' because everyone else in the industry was using it, and we got tired of explaining what the difference was."

HP says its research shows that the term dates back to at least 1996. Meanwhile, StorageTek used the term "information lifecycle management" and "ILM" in November 2002 for the first time (see StorageTek Debuts Info Mgmt Plan).Kevin Daly, CEO of disk-based backup start Avamar Inc. -- which recently signed a reseller agreement with HP -- also believes it will be hard for StorageTek to successfully trademark "information lifecycle management."

But, he adds, "This is indicative of the fact that we're hearing almost everybody saying 'information lifecycle management.' "

On a side note, StorageTek's Wientzen points out that the company isn't trying to take over the ILM abbreviation. "Anyone who thinks they own 'ILM' will have to take it up with George Lucas and Industrial Light & Magic," he says.

In the meantime, Byte and Switch has applied for trademark protection of "Storage Area Networking."

— Todd Spangler™, US Editor, Byte and Switch

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