Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sun To File Suit Against NetApp

Last month NetApp files suit against Sun claiming that ZFS infringed NetApp patents. Jonathan Swartz responded in his blog entry, "Thank You, Network Appliance", saying
  • Sun did not approach NetApps about licensing any of Sun's patents and never filed complaints against NetApps
  • Sun is focused on innovation and winning customers, not litigation
  • Sun will use its patent portfolio to protect communities, and indemnify customers
  • and "Thanks" to NetApp for pointing out that ZFS on servers such as the SunFire x4500 are viable alternatives to NetApp
Nice response. They story continues in Jonathan's latest blog, "ZFS Puts Net App Viability at Risk?" He says that NetApps wants to "unfree" ZFS and limit ZFS to servers only and not storage devices. To that JS says, "computers are storage devices, and vice versa". He make three key points:
  1. Sun indemnifies all its customers against IP claims like NetApp's
  2. Sun protects the communities using our technologies under free software licenses
  3. Sun files patents defensively
He finished with a point that makes it worth reading his blog again:
So later this week, we're going to use our defensive portfolio to respond to Network Appliance, filing a comprehensive reciprocal suit. As a part of this suit, we are requesting a permanent injunction to remove all of their filer products from the marketplace, and are examining the original NFS license - on which Network Appliance was started. By opting to litigate vs. innovate, they are disrupting their customers and employees across the world.
Sun now has a page on it's website devoted to this lawsuit:
The purpose of this website is to inform the open source community about the patent lawsuit launched by NetApp, and to invite open source developers to help in responding to these claims. NetApp has claimed that ZFS infringes 7 of NetApp's WAFL and storage patents. In one example, NetApp claims broadly to have invented the concept of "copy on write." Examples of such claims found in the NetApp patents are highlighted

In an interesting twist, Sun is leveraging the Open Community and the power of the network to seek examples that predate the NetApp patents:
If you are aware of software, code, publications or papers, patents - either US or Non-US, other media or websites that relate to the technology described in NetApp patents, that predate the filing of the NetApp patent, then you can help by sending that information - also known as "prior art"- to us following the instructions

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