Symantec Sues Microsoft Over Storage Technologies

Symantec, claiming that Microsoft stole its data storage technology, seeks an injunction to stop development of Vista and the next version of Microsoft's server software.

May 19, 2006

3 Min Read
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Symantec filed a lawsuit against Microsoft Thursday, charging that the Redmond, Wash. developer stole data storage technologies from Veritas, now owned by Symantec, and integrated them with its operating systems, including the not-yet-released Vista.

According to papers filed with a federal court in Seattle, Symantec seeks an injunction to stop development of Vista and the next version of Microsoft's server software.

Microsoft denied any wrongdoing. "These claims are unfounded because Microsoft actually purchased intellectual property rights for all relevant technologies from Veritas in 2004," the company said in a statement.

The opening of Symantec's complaint read like an overworked thriller.

"Microsoft has deliberately and surreptitiously misappropriated Symantec's valuable data storage technologies, misled and thereby convinced the United States government to issue patents to Microsoft based on technologies invented by Symantec, attempted unsuccessfully to persuade Symantec to forgive Microsoft's misdeeds under the guise of expanding a business relationship, and ultimately built portions of its next generation operating system on this house of cards," the lawsuit began."Symantec seeks an injunction to preclude the further development, sale ordistribution of the 'Vista' and 'Longhorn' versions of the Windows client and server operating systems (or whatever monikers are given to Microsoft's next-generation Windows operating systems)" it continued.

The lawsuit lays out a timeline in which Symantec alleges Microsoft stopped cooperating with Veritas soon after the launch of Windows 2000. Worse, Symantec says, Microsoft broke the original 1996 deal -- in which Veritas provided a bare bones version of its Volume Manager, as well as source code and other trade secrets -- by developing features in Vista specifically denied Microsoft. (The agreement promised Veritas exclusivity to a raft of advanced storage software features, ones that Microsoft swore to steer clear from.) But, says Symantec, Microsoft ignored the deal, and used Veritas code to build several technologies, including Virtual Disk Service and Volume Shadow Copy, which are both included in Windows Server 2003, and scheduled as features within Vista. The former offers a set of APIs for providing a single interface for storage management, while the second allows for "point-in-time" backups.

Microsoft used its access to Veritas' source code to not only build these Windows components, but also to hoodwink the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Symantec charged. It then tried to strong-arm Veritas into signing an amended agreement to "whitewash some of those activities," the lawsuit claimed.

Symantec seeks unspecified damages, revocation of the disputed Microsoft patents, return of all software using the Veritas technologies from the market, a part of the profits Microsoft made by selling software with storage technologies embedded.

For its part, Microsoft said Thursday that in 2004 it had exercised a "buy out" clause in the 1996 Veritas partnership that gave it "the rights to Veritas' code and intellectual property rights."Symantec's complaint painted a different picture. "Microsoft's after-the-fact attempt to exercise the buy-out was just another attempt to cover its tracks," the papers read.

The dispute pits two of the biggest companies in the technology business in direct conflict after years of a partnership that began to fray when Microsoft announced it would compete in the security software market, Symantec's bread and butter.

The end of Microsoft's statement was at odds with that, however. "We value our relationship with Symantec, and we continue to work closely with them on a wide variety of issues," the company said.

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