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Brocade bests McData in court, for now

Brocade won the first skirmish in its legal battle with rival switch vendor McData on Monday.

Storage switch makers Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and McData Corp. are duking it out in court over technology patents, and it appears that round one has gone to Brocade.

The U.S. District Court in Colorado on Monday denied McData's motion for a preliminary injunction against Brocade that had been filed last March.

McData claimed that Brocade's Fibre Channel fabric switches and "frame filtering" technology, which relates to measuring data traffic and eliminating bottlenecks within a switch, infringe on its intellectual property. Subsequently, McData filed for an injunction that, if granted, would have forced Brocade to turn off the frame filtering capabilities in its products until the lawsuit was resolved.

Randy Kerns, senior analyst for the Evaluator Group Inc., Boulder, Colo., said the legal argument is likely to be complex and less than clear for those that aren't storage savvy.

"I think the obvious answer is that it [is] very difficult to convince a judge, or anyone outside that very narrow part of the industry, of the uniqueness in handling data," Kerns said. "Regardless of the actual merits [and] the presentation of the material, the following interpretation will be a very subjective process."

McData was not surprised by the court's decisions against the injunction. Company spokesman Ryan Batty said the request for preliminary injunctive relief was an "extraordinary remedy" that can be only be granted by the court in a cut-and-dry case where the evidence is indisputable.

While the patent case is far from settled, the court ruled that a provision in a --> 98 contract between McData and Brocade might prevent McData from bringing the case to trial. McData said it was not able to present all of its evidence on the contract issue during the preliminary injunction hearing. The company maintained that the contractual issue is not related to its patent infringement claims.

The court has not yet set a trial date for the case.

Brocade and McData are not the only storage heavyweights battling over technology in the courts. Last September, Hewlett-Packard Co. filed a patent infringement lawsuit against EMC Corp. in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. By the end of that same day, EMC had filed a countersuit against HP in the U.S. District Court in Worcester, Mass., based on a different set of patent infringements.

In October, EMC dealt a storage reseller a knockout punch when it scored a patent victory that prohibited Triangle Technology Services LLC from monitoring, selling or servicing EMC hardware and software products. Let us know what you think about the story. E-mail Kevin Komiega, News Writer


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