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Overland Storage looses off fusillade of patent suits into tape crowds

Cartridge cases everywhere - it's spray-and-pray day

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On-the-ropes tape, disk protection and NAS vendor Overland Storage is suing seven tape product vendors for patent busting, including SpectraLogic.

Overland Storage used to sell tape autoloaders and libraries to OEMs like HP a long time ago. But it lost that business, with autoloader-maker BDT capturing some of its clients. Overland has sued BDT for patent infringement and trade violation, also suing Dell and IBM – which have settled. But the case against BDT is ongoing, with Overland having lost its trade violation case against BDT in an initial determination by the US International Trade Commission.

However – crucially – the validity of two of its patents were upheld. Thus bolstered, Overland's lawyers, DLA Piper LP, have opened patent infringement cases against Quantum, Venture Corp, Spectra Logic, PivotStor, Qualstar and Tandberg Data GmBH and Tandberg Data Corp, saying they have infringed one or other or both of two patents. One – US number 6,328,766 – deals with partitioning a tape library, and the other, 6,353,581, covers the non-disruptive import and export of tape cartridges to a library.

CEO Eric Kelly said: "We are pleased that our patents have been validated by the ITC and believe these technologies have been instrumental in the demand for tape storage solutions."

The seven targeted vendors collectively have 40 per cent of a tape storage market estimated by IDC to be worth $12bn between 2005 and 2001. Overland wants royalty payments and the prevention of the defendants using its patented technologies in the USA.

Mmmm: 40 per cent of $12bn is $4.8bn, and a two per cent royalty creamed off that would be $96m. A five per cent royalty would be $240m.

This latest suit looks like a prepared strategy. Whether DLA Piper can make this stick is a good question. It has an extremely good reputation in patent litigation matters and there could be a rush to settle once each targeted company's legal department examines the claims and counts the cost of fighting Overland's case. ®

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