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NetApp Smacks Sun With Patent Suit

Network Appliance is suing Sun Microsystems in a Texas district court, claiming the intellectual property Sun has released in its open-source ZFS (Zettabyte File System) software violates seven NetApp patents.

NetApp called a press conference September 5 to explain its position. We firmly believe that everyone is best served by fair and responsible treatment of intellectual property," said Dave Hitz, NetApp founder and EVP, who took the call with CEO Dan Warmenhoven. "Sun's actions have been neither fair nor responsible."

According to NetApp, Sun approached company management about 18 months ago with demands that NetApp license Sun's intellectual property as held in a number of patents Sun acquired with its 2005 purchase of StorageTek for $4.1 billion. The NetApp execs won't say how much Sun demanded in payment, but Hitz's most recent blog indicates royalties would have amounted to "millions of dollars."

In doing research to respond to the allegations, NetApp officials say they found what they believe to be clear evidence that, not only were they not in violation of Sun patents, but that Sun was violating seven NetApp patents. Specifically, NetApp thinks Sun's using patented technology first introduced in NetApp's foundation file system, Write Anywhere File Layout (WAFL), and in NetApp's RAID subsystem.

"Our suit points out that Sun’s ZFS appears to infringe several of NetApp’s WAFL patents," states Hitz in today's blog, which details specifics of the case. "It looks like ZFS was a conscious reimplementation of our WAFL filesystem, with little regard to intellectual property rights."

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