Last month, Seagate CEO Bill Watkins both downplayed the significance of flash-based solid state drives in the current computing market to Fortune magazine, then grumbled about SSD manufacturers infringing on Seagate patents. This month, the company looks to be following up on its threats: it has filed suit against relatively small SSD maker Stec Inc, alleging the company is violating four Seagate patents.
In an official response, Stec doesn’t appear to be willing to capitulate to Seagate on any points, noting that it has been manufacturing solid state drives since 1994—long before Seagate’s patents were issued—and that it believes it held the technology (including earlier patents) more than 10 years before Seagate’s patents were issued.
"The allegation put forth by Seagate [..] is simply not accurate nor in line with Stec’s long history of success and fair play in these markets," said Stec chairman and CEO Manouch Moshayedi, in a statement. "In fact, Stec believes these allegations are in response to the competitive threat that we as a leading developer of innovative SSD technologies pose to the HDD industry."
In an interview with the New York Times, Seagate CEO Watkins said the goal of the patent suit was to induce cross-licensing and partnerships, claiming his company has spent more than $7 billion to develop the technology at the heart of the suit, and wants to assert its intellectual property rights before the solid state drive market really begins to take off.