Sun response to NetApp lawsuit

For those of you who saw the press release issued by NetApp earlier today claiming patent infringement against Sun, we wanted to share our point of view on the topic...

NetApp's legal attack against Sun's open source ZFS solution which is freely available in the marketplace is a clear indication that NetApp considers Sun technology a threat, and is a direct attack on the open source community. ZFS is the fastest growing storage virtualization technology in the marketplace, and NetApp's attempt to use patent litigation to inhibit the meteoric rise of open source technologies like ZFS is tantamount to being unhappy with gravity. As Sun knows well, and NetApps' customers obviously recognize, innovation works better than litigation.

Many of the claims raised in the lawsuit are factually untrue. For example, it was NetApp who first approached Sun seeking to acquire the Sun patents NetApp is now attempting to invalidate. It is unfortunate that NetApp has now resorted to resolving its business issues in a legal jurisdiction (East Texas) long favored by "patent trolls."

Bottom line, Sun indemnifies its customers, and stands behind the innovations we deliver to the marketplace.
Comments:

"Sun technology a threat, and is a direct attack on the open source community."

Shame on you for trying to drag the community into a patent dispute between you and NetApp.

"This lawsuit isn’t about downloads for personal or non-commercial use; it is about what Sun is doing."

Clearly they're going after sun, not open source, and not the community.

Posted by Eric Bergen on September 05, 2007 at 09:43 AM PDT #

"Shame on you for trying to drag the community into a patent dispute between you and NetApp."

Nobody needs to drag the community in, we get dragged in whether we like it or not. Patent attacks on free software are attacks on the community.

'"This lawsuit isn’t about downloads for personal or non-commercial use; it is about what Sun is doing."'
"Clearly they're going after sun, not open source, and not the community."

There is nothing wrong with commercial development of free software. Indeed free software benefits immensely from commercial entities. An attack on the free software efforts of a commercial entity is just as wrong and damaging to the community as on a non-profit organization or individual. Many companies are trying to play this game (c.f. Blackboard vs. Desire2learn), trying to cut the free software community off from support of commercial entities and any other organization with concentrated financial resources.

Posted by Alan on September 05, 2007 at 12:05 PM PDT #

Eric,

Being able to download software for personal or non-commercial use is a very small part of what open source is about.

Posted by Will Sterling on September 05, 2007 at 12:11 PM PDT #

"Many of the claims raised in the lawsuit are factually untrue. For example, it was NetApp who first approached Sun seeking to acquire the Sun patents NetApp is now attempting to invalidate. It is unfortunate that NetApp has now resorted to resolving its business issues in a legal jurisdiction (East Texas) long favored by 'patent trolls.'"

I sincerely hope this is the case. I hold Sun in high esteem, and I would be sad and disappointed if NetApp's claims about Sun approaching them first were true.

I don't think this is the case, though, because it would be uncharacteristic of the Sun I've come to know.

Posted by Josh Anderson on September 05, 2007 at 12:29 PM PDT #

"being unhappy with gravity"

What does the popularity of the technology have to do with whether it's protected by a valid patent or not?

"it was NetApp who first approached Sun seeking to acquire the Sun patents"

This is not legally relevant to whether the technology is protected by valid patents that NetApp owns.

Please have your attorneys write these blog posts, not your P.R. people.

Posted by Mark on September 05, 2007 at 02:59 PM PDT #

A patent dispute between two companies is simply a patent dispute between two companies. Open source simply makes it easier to spot the patent infringements and more difficult to asses damages

Posted by Eric Bergen on September 05, 2007 at 03:16 PM PDT #

"This is not legally relevant to whether the technology is protected by valid patents that NetApp owns."

It is morally relevant. To some, ethics are important on deciding who you do business with.

Posted by guest on September 05, 2007 at 07:04 PM PDT #

"A patent dispute between two companies is simply a patent dispute between two companies."

No. Read my comment and try again.

Posted by Alan on September 06, 2007 at 01:27 AM PDT #

It would be good to see Sun stand behind these strong words and pledge immunity over the entirety of its software patent portfolio to the OSDL patent commons.

Posted by James Ulgoy on September 06, 2007 at 03:54 AM PDT #

It is in moments like this one when I'm really grateful that Europe and other substantial parts of the world have not entered into this nonsense of software patents.

Posted by Santiago Gala on September 06, 2007 at 04:18 AM PDT #

moral? years ago linux people stopped to develop tux2 which used phase tree like wafl/zfs do. exactly because of IP issues. now Sun screams how cool are they exploiting netapp's technology ... how funny sun's moral is ...

Posted by guest on September 06, 2007 at 04:39 AM PDT #

A plague on both your houses. As far as I can see, \*none\* of the patents involved in this dispute should ever have been granted: they are "obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the art", and they claim to cover algorithms which are not patentable according to the original intent of the patent system.

Unfortunately, it is impractical or counterproductive to exclude U.S. developers and users from software projects, so the fact that this nonsense is not supported by patent law in Europe and elsewhere does not help very much.

Posted by David Hopwood on September 06, 2007 at 07:02 AM PDT #

"As far as I can see, \*none\* of the patents involved in this dispute should ever have been granted"

This is exactly why it's good that this is going to be litigated. U.S. Patent courts are quite sharp and technologically sophisticated (unlike normal federal courts), and in fact most patents do get invalidated when challenged. (Which makes me think that there is more validity to NetApp's claims than Sun is letting on, since their attorney's certainly advised them of the possibility of the patent being invalidated.)

"It is morally relevant."

No, it isn't. Read up on the definition of morals, and avoid vocabulary "mission creep." At any rate, there are many reasons why the companies might have approached each other and made proposals, starting with the monetary and opportunity cost of litigation.

Posted by Mark on September 06, 2007 at 07:02 PM PDT #

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