Milpitas, Calif.'s Quantum struck first this week, filing a complaint in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California alleging that StorageTek has engaged in the illegal making and selling of tape and tape drive products that infringe two separate Quantum patents in the U.S.
Then Louisville, Colo.'s StorageTek followed up with essentially the same claim in a patent infringement suit filed against Quantum in the U.S. District Court in Denver.
Quantum is seeking an injunction against the future sale of StorageTek 9840 and 9940 products based on its DLTape drive brand patents, U.S. 5,474,253, issued in December 1995, and U.S. 4,809,110, issued in February 1989.
John Gannon, president of Quantum's DLTtape Group, said months of haggling to reach an "amicable solution" failed.
"Unfortunately, this effort was unsuccessful, and we felt we had no choice but to initiate legal action to defend and protect our intellectual property, which is a critical element of our DLTtape storage products and technologies," Gannon said in a statement.
Quantum holds more than one hundred patents relating to its DLTtape technology, which is the standard for backup, archiving, and data recovery. Though only two products were named in the suit at this time, a Quantum spokesperson said "we're exploring if possibly there are others."
StorageTek, too, is seeking an injunction against the sale of Quantum Super DLT products based on its patents going forward. Moreover, StorageTek is also seeking damages in royalty payments from Quantum against prior sales of its Super DLT product, including three times as many damages for willful violations of its patents. The StorageTek patents allegedly infringed by Quantum are U.S. Patent Nos. 6,236,529 and 6,549,363.
A StorageTek spokesperson downplayed Quantum's claims.
"They stem from a 15-year old patent related to tape heads in a technology we no longer use and another patent which relates to tape reels, which we don't believe we infringe and which is invalid in any event because tape reels had this characteristic well prior to the Quantum patent," the spokesperson said.
Like Quantum, StorageTek said it tried to solve the dispute out of court last fall. However, Mark Roellig, StorageTek vice president and general counsel, said Quantum never raised any claims against StorageTek. Instead, Roellig claimed Quantum filed its suit in anticipation of being sued.
"It was our hope to resolve this dispute through private good faith negotiations," Roellig said. "Quantum has now elected to file a frivolous complaint on two unrelated patents, apparently anticipating an unfavorable resolution of our negotiations. StorageTek will now take the affirmative enforcement of our intellectual property rights to court."