StorageTek Fishes for Catchphrase Trademark

Every sector in the technology industry has its own lexicon of catch phrases, and storage is no different. A couple of years ago it was Bluefin for storage management specifications and iSCSI for IP-based data storage linking. Now it’s Serial ATA (serial advanced technology attachment) and information lifecycle management, or ILM.

But while the first three are technology-specific buzzwords in the data storage industry, ILM is a sizzling catchphrase that many vendors are using to describe the process of managing and storing data from its inception to its ultimate demise.

EMC made ILM the driving point of its financial analyst conference in August while HP announced the formation of an ILM division last week.

But one company, tape drive manufacturer StorageTek , believes it can make a case that it can procure a trademark for the phrase. Accordingly, the company has recently filed for trademark protection on the term “Information Lifecycle Management.”

StorageTek spokesman Joe Fuentes told it’s too early to tell if the trademark will be granted because the process can take as
long as two years, “but filing gives us the right to use the trademark symbol.”

The issue in some ways bears resemblance to the furor open-source operating system maker Lindows sparked two years ago when it burst onto the scene with an operating system that sounded a lot like Microsoft’s Windows. In that case, Microsoft moved to get an injunction granted against the then-startup, arguing that Lindows should not be able to capitalize on the term “windows.” But a judge shot it down, agreeing with Lindows’ defense that the term “windows” is too common in computing.

Wouldn’t a trademark committee reach a similar conclusion about the ILM term, given its wide use already?

“If you search Google for Information Lifecycle Management, you get 571 responses,” said StorageTek’s Fuentes. “The first full page mentioned StorageTek’s Leadership in Information Lifecycle Management several times [plus a hit or two on EMC]. And by the way, anyone who thinks they own ‘ILM’ will have to take it up with George Lucas and Industrial Light and Magic.”

Some storage analysts find StorageTek’s bid laughable. Enterprise Storage Group (ESG) Analyst Steve Kenniston says StorageTek apprised him of their plans for a trademark last week.

“There is no need to do this. In the ‘CURRENT’ day, ESG invented/resurrected this term to define how People/Process/Technology all play a key role in turning IT into a value center by creating a utility within the data center,” Kenniston told “Ultimately, ILM will take on several meanings to many vendors, but at the end of the day it’s about combining people process and technology to create value within IT – pretty
hard to trademark.”

Other vendors with ties to ILM aren’t crazy about StorageTek’s claim to the phrase. Responding to questions about StorageTek’s bid, HP dismissed the company’s attempt to register the “hugely fashionable buzz-word ‘Information Lifecycle Management'” as a company trademark.

“HP believes that StorageTek will be unsuccessful in its attempts to use the international trademark registration system to trademark ‘information
lifecycle management,’ which is widely considered an established, industry-standard term,” the company said in a statement. “Our own research shows that the term dates back to 1996 and possibly earlier…It is industry momentum around ‘information lifecycle management’ that led HP to adopt the term. HP will vigorously defend any attempt to prevent the use of this term.”

HP said ILM has been broadly adopted by many vendors and analysts to describe the process of generating, storing, routing, retrieving, and archiving information through various technologies based on its changing business relevance and usage over time.

StorageTek, Fuentes pointed out, has its own definition for ILM.

“Our strategy is based on the recognition that all information does not have equal value. To create a sustainable storage management strategy, customers
need to understand the value of their information and align storage costs with information’s value. Your storage strategy must adapt, or you pay too
much to store information that has a declining purpose and value,” goes the company’s creed. “The objective of Information Lifecycle Management(tm) is
to help our customers understand the value of their information and align it with the appropriate point along the storage hierarchy.”

Story courtesy of

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Clint Boulton
Clint Boulton is an Enterprise Storage Forum contributor and a senior writer for covering IT leadership, the CIO role, and digital transformation.

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