All-flash firm Pure Storage has acquired over 100 patents relating to storage technology from IBM, and entered a cross-licensing agreement with the IT giant.
The move, which was announced on Pure Storage's blog, is being portrayed by the firm as a vital step necessary to prevent it from being the target of litigation, particularly by traditional storage vendors that see all-flash array technology as a threat to their own business.
Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but both IBM and Pure Storage welcomed the agreement. IBM said it demonstrated the value of its extensive research and development investments, while Pure Storage said that the cross-licensing deal showed the strength of its own patents.
Pure Storage was founded about five years ago with the aim to bring all-flash enterprise storage to market, but chief executive Scott Dietzen wrote on the company blog that the firm knew from the outset that it would face a bitter struggle against traditional storage vendors.
"We knew that our success would prove profoundly disruptive to the incumbents, with much of the $60bn total spend on Tier 1 disk arrays expected to shift to all-flash arrays (AFAs) over the next four-year refresh cycle. A prototypical response to the existential threat posed by technology sea changes is for the legacy vendors to resort to litigation," he said.
The move by Pure Storage is partly a response to legal action from EMC, which last year sued the newcomer over alleged appropriation of trade secrets due to former EMC employees hired by Pure Storage.
Ominously, Dietzen claimed in his blog that Pure Storage now owns "over 150 US patents, the vast majority of which are unlicensed by today's big storage vendors."
But he also said that Pure intends to take a moral high ground in the potential use of its newly acquired intellectual property. "We pledge that we will not make first use of these patents, but rather use this IP only to defend against aggression from those competitors who choose litigation over marketplace competition," he said.
The whole issue highlights the controversy surrounding technology patents, which are seen by many as necessary to ensure that innovators derive a benefit from bringing new technologies to market, while others contend that they are just as likely to be used to stifle innovation and block competition.
Last month, Pure updated its product line-up with new entry-level and high-capacity arrays, plus support for mission-critical enterprise features such as disaster-recovery and snapshots.
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