UPDATE: HP, EMC sue each other over storage patents

Hewlett-Packard Co. has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against EMC Corp., charging that its competitor uses HP’s technology in both storage hardware and software products, the company announced Monday. EMC responded later Monday with a patent infringement suit of its own.

HP filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, claiming that EMC’s Symmetrix and Clariion storage systems and its TimeFinder software infringe on seven patents held by HP. This action follows similar suits filed earlier this year by EMC and Hitachi Ltd. against each other. HP resells some of Hitachi’s high-end storage systems and cited its relationship with the company as one reason for filing the lawsuit, according to a statement.

“This means we want (EMC) to stop using our IP (intellectual property), and we want them to pay us for it,” said Bob Schultz, vice president of marketing for HP’s Network Storage Solutions.

HP, based in Palo Alto, Calif., and EMC are fierce rivals in the market for data storage systems and software. The two companies have been working to push standards in the industry that would allow competing vendors’ products to work with each other. Despite these efforts, HP said in the statement that it “has a responsibility to ensure that, as we compete in the marketplace, we are not competing against our own intellectual property.”

HP claims EMC has violated patents for transferring data between different storage media, reducing the number of reads and writes in a RAID (redundant array of independent disks) configuration, linking host computers via a switching network to storage systems, handling disk failures in a RAID configuration, methods for presenting logical units to host computers and technology used between storage systems and power supplies.

HP is seeking payment for past infringement as well as injunctive relief against EMC to use technology covered by the patents.

Mike O’Malley, a spokesperson for EMC, said the charges caught EMC by surprise, and that HP had not contacted EMC about a possible infringement.

“HP never approached us about these patents,” he said. “The fact that they would not tell us about this leads us to believe that the suit is frivolous and without merit.”

By contrast, O’Malley said, EMC and Hitachi had talked to each other about the patent issue for years before taking legal action.

HP said it is defending its U.S. patent numbers 5,247,618; 5,315,602; 5,327,658; 5,391,327; 5,917,253; 6,269,453 and 6,356,979. The patents can be viewed by searching at the Web site for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, at http://www.uspto.gov.

By Monday afternoon EMC had filed a countersuit in Worcester District Court in Worcester, Mass., alleging that HP has infringed on six EMC patents, said EMC spokesperson Ann Pace.

Specifically, EMC is charging that HP infringed on U.S. patent numbers 6,101,497; 5,742,792; 6,092,066; 5,909,692; 5,544,347 and 6,108,748, EMC said in a statement.

The patents relate to EMC’s TimeFinder and SRDF (Symmetrix Remote Data Facility) software for mirroring data on to other storage systems, and also to data migration and the storage of mainframe data, EMC said.

– With files from Laura Rohde, IDG News Service