Oracle and NetApp end patent disputes

The two companies have decided to withdraw their pending patent disputes for undisclosed terms, according to a statement from NetApp's president
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

Computer storage and data management specialist NetApp announced on Thursday that it has settled its long-standing patent disputes with Sun Microsystems, now owned by Oracle.

Terms of the dismissals have been kept confidential, with the statement simply saying "Oracle and NetApp seek to have the lawsuits dismissed without prejudice".

"Moving forward, we will continue to collaborate with Oracle to deliver solutions that help our mutual customers gain greater flexibility and efficiency in their IT infrastructures," said Tom Georgens, president and chief executive of NetApp in the statement.

The announcement brings to an end patent litigation that began on 5 September, 2007 when NetApp filed a complaint alleging that Sun's ZFS file system and logical volume manager — a key feature of its Solaris operating system — infringed on seven of its patents. It also included a further request that Sun recognise that NetApp was not infringing on three of Sun's patents.

In response, Sun — which was acquired by Oracle in April 2009 — filed its own patent suits.

In an unusual move in October 2007, the then-chief executive Jonathan Schwartz said on the company blog that Sun had wanted to avoid litigative action.

"About a month ago, Network Appliance sued Sun to try to stop the competitive impact of ZFS on their business... So last week, I reached out to their CEO to see how we could avoid litigation. I have no interest whatever in suing them. None whatever," Schwartz wrote.

However, he also made it clear that, given NetApp's demands, he saw no alternative but to counter-file a suit that included a call for a "permanent injunction to remove all of their filer products from the marketplace".

NetApp co-founder Dave Hitz responded a day later with his own blog post reassuring staff and customers that the company would weather the storm.

"I am frustrated with Sun and with Jonathan. We have tried to be very open, detailed and specific about how Sun is infringing our intellectual property. We've tried to set a higher standard in how companies conduct patent litigation. It's frustrating that Sun would just do a two-barrelled blast, threatening to shut down our company. Frustrating and silly, to be honest, because it's just so unlikely for a patent case to shut down a major corporation," he wrote on his NetApp blog.

In October 2009, Apple posted a short statement on its Mac OS Forge website announcing the termination of a two-year project aimed at porting the ZFS file system to Mac OS X.

Oracle had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.

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