EMC, Hitachi Bury Litigation Hatchet

EMC and Hitachi , whose subsidiaries compete with EMC in the storage sector, Tuesday settled pending patent infringement litigation.

Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC had been in legal spats with rival Tokyo’s Hitachi over the last year, but now it seems the companies have patched things up well enough to the point that the settlement includes five-year cross licensing agreements with some of the very same technology that had been addressed in litigation. Under terms of the detente, Hitachi will make balancing payments of an undisclosed amount to EMC. Additional terms of the cross-licensing agreements, between subsidiaries Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) and Hitachi Computer Products, were not disclosed.

Moreover, EMC and Hitachi agreed to devise a framework for exchanging application programming interfaces (APIs), which the firms said in a public statement will benefit each other’s customers.

To be sure, API exchanges are seen as smart strategic moves by industry analysts because they enable software developers to write applications that will run on competitors’ machines and manage them. EMC, often credited with igniting the API exchange trend a few years ago, inked a similar pact with rival Veritas Software just yesterday.

“We are extremely pleased to be able to resolve these issues in a way that upholds our principles and encourages future innovation,” said Joe Tucci, EMC President and CEO. “The customers of both EMC and Hitachi, who rely on our respective information storage technologies, are the real winners.”

EMC, which for years enjoyed sole dominance of the high-end storage market for large corporations until Hitachi entered, touched off the patent war against Hitachi and Hitachi Data Systems in April 2002, with the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) and U.S. District Court in Massachusetts.

Also quashed were patent infringement counterclaims filed by Hitachi and Hitachi Computer Products (America) Inc. against EMC in the same month, in the same district court. The proceeding was scheduled to go to an evidentiary hearing in this month. All subject patents are included in the patent cross-license.

EMC recently endured another high-profile suit/countersuit in 2002 versus HP, despite enjoying API swaps with each other.

Patent infringement and copyright quibbles are nothing new in the complex world of high technology, and most major firms who encounter competition along the way find themselves in court soon enough. Just ask Microsoft and Sun Microsystems, or Microsoft and Lindows.com.

But most patent experts say the difficulty starts with how a patent is originally granted, or rather, what the semantics of the terms are. For example, Microsoft has accused upstart Lindows.com of treading on its “Windows” brand, claiming ownership of the way the word “windows” is used in the technology space.

Lindows.com is fighting this issue in court and it was just announced that the case has been continued to December 2003, giving Lindows.com more time to defend itself, and Microsoft more time to renew its offensive.

This story originally appeared on internetnews.com.

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

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