updated 01:00 pm EDT, Tue April 15, 2008
Seagate vs. STEC
Seagate has begun the first of what may be several lawsuits against makers of flash memory, show filings from the US District Court in San Francisco. It has accused STEC, formerly known as Simple Technology, of violating four patents it owns, connected to the creation of flash memory -- should it win, Seagate could be granted an injunction against STEC products as well as unspecified damages. Seagate CEO Bill Watkins argues that compensation would be well-due, as it has invested heavily in developing technology for SSD drives, and it has tried to persuade other companies to license its patents.
"They have blatantly decided they don't have to," says Watkins. "Now is the time to start enforcing our patents."
This view is contested by a STEC vice president, Patrick Wilkison, who notes that Seagate did not approach him or anyone else at his company in advance of filing the lawsuit. Representatives in fact claim that STEC was one of the first companies to ship SSD drives, in 1994, before Seagate acquired any of its patents.
Although Seagate is planning to enter the SSD market, it continues to be focused on standard platter-based hard drives. Watkins has openly admitted that Seagate feels threatened by the increasing use of SSD drives, and may file lawsuits against a host of other companies if they refuse to share SSD-related revenues. Intel and Samsung may be future targets, although so far accusations of patent infringement have been limited to public statements.