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Compaq and Seagate sued for $800 million

A serious disk drive disagreement

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Compaq and Seagate are being sued for patent infringement by New York based company, Convolve. The privately held firm is seeking $800 million in damages and a permanent injunction against Compaq and Seagate from manufacturing or selling drives incorporating the disputed technology.

Compaq says that it is innocent of any wrongdoing and rejects the allegations utterly.

Convolve claims to be the exclusive licensee of patented motion control technology called Input Shaping originally developed at and licensed from MIT. It was demonstrated on a NASA Space Shuttle robot arm training facility, and has been on a NASA mission the company says.

In a disk drive application, Input Shaping controls the read/write arm, reducing the vibrations generated by the end of a "seek", or the movement of the arm between tracks on the disk. Since new data cannot be written until the arm settles, Convolve asserts that the technology would allow drives to run more quickly and quietly than currently possible.

According to the complaint, "For more than a year, beginning in October 1998, Convolve held discussions with and gave demonstrations for engineers and executives of both Compaq and Seagate for the purpose of licensing their technologies to these two companies."

According to Convolve, both Compaq and Seagate had signed non-disclosure agreements (NDA) not to use this proprietary technology to develop competing products.

Convolve also has developed and has both domestic and foreign patents pending for a control panel feature called "Quick and Quiet". It alleges that this technology has been misappropriated by Seagate and used in its Sound Barrier technology.

Filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, the suit officially seeks "to prevent Compaq and Seagate from stealing Convolve's proprietary computer disk drive technology".

MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is also obliged to join the action through the licensing agreement with Convolve. ®

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