NetApp, Oracle Settle Old Patent Litigation over ZFS

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2010-09-09 Print this article Print

NetApp and Oracle settle a 3-year-old patent lawsuit over the origin of the Zettabyte File System. Terms were deemed confidential.

When Oracle annexed Sun Microsystems and all that intellectual property in its $7.4 billion deal last January, it also inherited all of Sun's legal entanglements.

As of Sept. 9, one of those has gone away. NetApp and Oracle announced a settlement regarding a 3-year-old patent lawsuit over the origin of ZFS (Zettabyte File System). Terms of the legal agreement were deemed confidential.

NetApp originally filed suit against Sun on Sept. 5, 2007, to forestall competition from the free ZFS technology, which Sun released to the open-source community in 2005.

That original lawsuit eventually touched off two more IP arguments between the two companies, including one filed by Sun on March 26, 2008, involving a patent related to Onaro's SANscreen storage software that NetApp acquired in January 2008.

SANscreen, deployed in 32 percent of Fortune 50 companies at the time of the acquisition, allows enterprises to manage large amounts of storage with minimum downtime. Sun claimed its IP was the basis of that product.

For its part, NetApp claimed Sun's ZFS, a speedy, industrial-strength storage file system included in Sun's Unix-derived OpenSolaris operating system, is patterned directly after its own WAFL (Write Anywhere File Layout) file system and should not have been released to the open-source community.

Sun, which claimed to have created ZFS long before it released the code, filed countersuits on Oct. 25, 2007, against the entire NetApp product line, seeking both injunctions and monetary damages.

Sun's legal affidavit was filed in an East Texas court, as was the original NetApp action. The court case was later moved to California, where it has languished until now.

"ZFS is an extraordinary innovation, so threatening to NetApp's business model, they are seeking to remove it from the marketplace," Sun lawyers said at the time.

NetApp characterized its suit as a defensive step after Sun sought to charge NetApp to license its technology, NetApp officials said. In response, NetApp reviewed its own list of patents and identified those it believed Sun infringed, they said.

This was not a case of stolen or copied code-from either inside or outside sources, NetApp's then-CEO Dan Warmenhoven said.

"We're not saying they stole code from us," Warmenhoven told eWEEK at the time. "We're saying that there are clear patterns of techniques that we use in our file system that are in ZFS, and that we want Sun to stop using it commercially."

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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