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Sun sues NetApp, take three

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Sun Microsystems continues to sick its legal squad on NetApp, waving another fresh batch of patents the Java king feels have been unjustly violated. This time at issue is NetApp's storage management software that it acquired with the purchase of Onaro in January.

Sun claims NetApp's Onaro SANscreen and NAS Insight software lifts technology from patents relating to device discovery, remote recovery, alert monitoring, and event filtering. The lawsuit was filed in US District Court in Northern California, on March 26.

A copy of the full complaint is available here. (PDF warning)

The deteriorating relationship between the companies began in September, 2007, when NetApp first sued over alleged patent violations in Sun's ZFS file system. The lawsuit sought to halt Sun's sales and development of ZFS technology and unspecified damages.

In October, Sun issued a counter-lawsuit over an alleged violation of seven of its patents. Then Sun sued them again.

All the while, things got ugly as barbs were exchanged on the executive blogs of both NetApp founder Dave Hitz and Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz.

Even the wording on the most recent lawsuit is nasty. Sun taunts NetApp in a claim that the storage firm spends only a fourth as much money on research and development as they do, and holds only about 200 US patents.

"Indeed, rather than innovate, NetApp builds on the innovation of others," the lawsuit states.

Sun has also requested that the US Patent Office re-examine the validity of the NetApp patent related to its original lawsuit. The company claims the Patent Office has already granted their request with respect to a NetApp patent titled, "Method for maintaining consistent states of a file system and for creating user-accessible read-only copies of a file system."

NetApp has thus far responded to the latest legal volley by saying it does not comment on ongoing litigation. Maybe we'll catch a good ringside seat back on their blogs. ®

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