Storage Soup

Jan 5 2009   1:43PM GMT

Seagate found to have infringed patent, but beats lawsuit from Siemens

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Europe-based engineering conglomerate Siemens AG lost a patent-infringement claim against Seagate in US District Court in California a little over a week ago, Bloomberg reported. According to court documents, the judge in the case, James V. Selna, determined prior to the jury trial that Seagate had in fact infringed the patent, No. 5,686,838. According to the Bloomberg report, the patent covers “a key component in a sensor-layer system that measures contacts on hard-disk drives.” The court documents refer to it only as a “type of sensor.”

Selna said that while he had ruled that patent infringement had taken place, he had made no ruling as to whether the patent was “valid, or whether it is enforceable, or whether any infringement by Seagate was willful, or what damages, if any, Siemens is entitled to.”

The jury found that the patent was not enforceable due to prior art by IBM, with which Seagate has a licensing agreement in place. Siemens had sought damages of $160 million, which were not granted.

The last two years have seen plenty of patent litigation among storage companies, including a battle between Sun Microsystems and NetApp Inc. that is still ongoing. However, other patent lawsuits that have made a splash in the storage industry, such as Quantum’s suit against Riverbed, have been settled out of court or otherwise fizzled like this one. In the Sun case, at least one of the patents cited by NetApp in suing Sun has been taken off the table by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office due to similar enforcement issues. So far the lawsuits are looking like key talking points for those who argue the patent system in general badly needs reform.

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