Sun fires third legal cannon at NetApp

Brings Onaro acquisition into play

Sun has filed a third patent infringement case against NetApp, claiming that its Onaro-sourced SANscreen and NAS Insight products use IP owned by Sun.

NetApp bought Onaro and its SAN management software in January. That software has now been rolled into the scope of Sun’s IP claims against NetApp. This third suit was filed on Wednesday, 26th March, at the north California district of the US Federal Court in San Francisco.

Sun wants the sales of NetApp products infringing its patents stopped plus substantial cash compensation. Effectively it would put NetApp out of business until it substituted other technology for the infringed patents.

The Sun cases are a direct response to NetApp’s suit against Sun, filed in September last year in an east Texas court, that Sun’s ZFS file system product infringed NetApp patents concerning WAFL, its Write Anywhere File Layout file system. Therefore Sun had no right to make ZFS open source, as it had done.

Sun rebutted this claim and counter-sued in October last year, also in east Texas, saying this was an assault on innovation and the open source movement, and has claimed that NetApp infringes Sun patents. Both cases have since been transferred to the north California district of the US Federal Court system.

Sun is also appealing to the US Patent Office to re-examine NetApp’s WAFL patent, saying that it is invalid and should be revoked. It submitted evidence of WAFL-type activities before NetApp submitted its patent claim, termed prior art, which it said, if known at the time, would have rendered NetApp’s patent submission invalid. That office has allowed Sun’s re-examination request.

If this tactic works then the basis of NetAp’s original case collapses and so does that case. However Sun claims against NetApp for infringing its IP would still stand with the possibility of NetApp seeking to license that IP if Sun prevails in court.

A Sun spokesperson, Dana Lengkeek, is reportedĀ as saying: “NetApp initiated this attack against Sun’s ZFS file sharing system, and now as NetApp attempts to extend its product line, it also expands its exposure to Sun patents. Sun is committed to protecting its innovations and the open source community against the lawsuit that NetApp questionably initiated against ZFS.”

Sun, the open source community standard bearer, is pitching itself as a defender of freedom and innovation.

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