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Will dedupe get its day in court?

Data deduplication has been much discussed in the data center for the past year or so, and now is gaining attention in legal circles.

Quantum announced Tuesday that it filed suit against Riverbed in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, claiming the wide area file services vendor is infringing on a deduplication patent originally granted to Rocksoft in 1999. Quantum gained the patent when it bought ADIC in May of 2006, two months after ADIC acquired Rocksoft.

Quantum is seeking to stop Riverbed from using the technology in its WAFS devices, while seeking damages, attorney fees and other costs.

Quantum general counsel Shawn Hall said in a prepared statement that the suit was filed eight months after the backup vendor first approached Riverbed. “Unfortunately, this effort has been unsuccessful, and we felt we had no choice but to initiate action to protect our intellectual property in data deduplication,” he said.

Riverbed answered that it has done nothing wrong — at least not intentionally. “Riverbed’s policy is to respect the intellectual property rights of all third parties,” the company said in a statement. “Riverbed has no factual or other basis to believe that it infringes the patents of any third party, including Quantum. Riverbed intends to timely respond to Quantum’s claims and will defend itself in this action to ensure that its rights are fully protected.”

Quantum claims it has confidential licensing agreements with other vendors regarding its deduplication patent. It also has a cross-licensing agreement with rival Data Domain that became public knowledge earlier this year. As part of that agreement, Data Domain issued Quantum stock shares that were worth $5,850,000 when Data Domain went public in June. Quantum sold $2.1 million of shares during the second quarter.

Quantum considers data deduplication a key technology in helping it expand its backup products from tape to disk. Quantum began selling disk backup devices with deduplication last January.

“The patent gives us a strong leadership position that we want to protect,” Quantum spokesman Brad Cohen said.

This is just a hunch, but the feeling here is you can expect the Riverbed suit to end with the WAFS vendor and Quantum reaching a not-so-confidential agreement to settle the issue.

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