Technology pricing follies: EMC claims price list is a trade secret

Is a price list that anyone piece together via Google really a trade secret? EMC seems to think so.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor on

Is a price list that anyone piece together via Google really a trade secret? EMC seems to think so.

EMC issued a cease and desist letter to Robin Harris at StorageMojo for publishing a price list that can be put together with a few Google searches. Harris, who will soon be starting a storage blog for ZDNet, outlined a host of URLs where the information could be found in his response to EMC.

None of that mattered though. EMC issued a letter that read:

Robin Harris: Your Website StorageMojo.com posts a price list of EMC Corporation. Having worked in the industry for over 20 years in both large and small companies, you certainly must know that EMC’s Price List is Confidential Information of EMC, and is protected as a trade secret. Without waiving any remedy that we may have, we hereby demand that you (1) remove the EMC price list from your Website, (2) cease and desist posting it there or anywhere else, (3) destroy all electronic and hard copies, and (4) confirm the above to us by return email. Your actions in this regard will be taken into consideration by us in deciding how we handle this matter.

William R. Clark
Sr. Intellectual Property Counsel
EMC Corporation

Welcome to the wonderful world of technology pricing where nothing is straightforward. Want to stump a technology CEO? Ask him or her about the price list. Software execs will say: "Well it depends on size of purchase, size of company, whether they are using one core processors or two, time of month and lunar cycle." OK we made up the lunar cycle part, but you get the idea. Hardware execs will offer some similar argument.

Meanwhile, companies that claim to be at least a little transparent about pricing post lists on their site...somewhere. Good luck finding those price lists from a vendor's home page. The lists are there, but are far from visible--in fact most of them can't be discovered from the home page. Best bet: Google a vendor and price list and you may luck out.

The bigger question here is why the technology industry tries to hide its pricing practices. Could it be competition? Margin pressure? You bet.

But the current pricing as trade secret argument is sheer lunacy.  To see how idiotic tech pricing is let's port current practices to a consumer-led sector like retailing. Walk into a Target and you'll find price transparency. You actually know the price of an item. Some companies like Wal-Mart even put smiley faces on prices. Go figure.

Now the technology industry equivalent would be the following: Shopper walks into store and finds no pricing on any of the goods. After finding some help inside the store the shopper asks: "How much is this?" The store worker replies: "Well it depends on your usage level, how many people are in your family and our licensing agreement, which changes in real-time by the way. If you hire a lawyer I'm sure we can reach an agreement."

Doesn't make a lot of sense does it? The worst part: Technology buyers have been playing this game for years. Technology pricing isn't a trade secret. It's a joke.

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