Seagate drops SSD patent lawsuit against STEC

STEC says it's free to expand its SSD market penetration

Seagate Technology Thursday said it has dropped its lawsuit and all claims alleging STEC misappropriated its hard disk drive (HDD) technology as it related to the development of solid state disk (SSD) drives.

Santa Ana, Calif.-based STEC subsequently said it dropped its rhetorical lawsuit against Seagate alleging it misappropriated STEC's intellectual property as it related to SSDs.

As part of the dismissal, no money was exchanged and neither party licensed its technology to the other, STEC stated.

"This is an important development in light of the mass adoption of SSDs," STEC CEO Manouch Moshayedi said in a statement. "We have always contended that SSD does not borrow from existing hard-drive technology but rather offers an all-together new approach to storage. We view the dismissal as a vindication of our technology."

Seagate said it dropped the lawsuit because economic conditions didn't make pursuing the case worthwhile.

"The economic conditions today are drastically altered from those that existed when we filed the litigation, and the impact of STEC's sales of SSDs has turned out to be so small that the expenditures necessary to vindicate the patents could be better spent elsewhere," Seagate said in an e-mail response to Computerworld.

STEC makes high-end, single-level cell (SLC) NAND flash memory-based SSDs that it sells to original equipment manufacturers such as EMC and Sun Microsystems, which in turn use them in their storage arrays as a top-tier disk drive. SLC memory stores one bit per flash memory cell, while multilevel cell (MLC) memory stores two or more bits per cell. While MLC memory offers higher capacities, natively, it is less reliable and slower than SLC. However, specialized software is narrowing the performance gap between the two flash memory types.

Moshayedi said that with the lawsuit over, STEC can use its resources to take full advantage of the market opportunities for selling its SSDs.

Seagate brought the lawsuit in US District Court for the Northern District of California in April 2008. It claimed that several STEC products, including SSDs and some DRAM (dynamic RAM) devices, infringed on as many as four Seagate patents. The lawsuit had threatened to raise SSD prices.

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