Isn’t It Time To Cut Litigation Times For All Cases?

That is not what I originally was going to call this article, but, on the way to a title, I started looking around. There were about 5 different things I was going to write about, and it turned out that four of them would be positively affected by the curtailing of the long, overly drawn legal cases of today.

This story started with the Seagate suit brought about by Convolve over noise shaping, and the Seagate lifting of information without proper authorization. The blip in Maximum PC tells only a small part –

They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, so where does that leave ex-employees? In some cases, right in the same category. Just ask Seagate, who stands accused by a former employee of patent infringement and other underhanded deeds.

Paul A. Galloway, a former Seagate servo engineer until July of this year, says the hard drive maker has been infringing on HDD technology patents held by Convolve. What’s more, Galloway alleges Seagate went so far as to destroy evidence to cover its tracks.

“According to Mr. Galloway, Seagate widely disseminated Convolve’s technology throughout Seagate’s servo engineering community, but engineers like Mr.Galloway, who were exposed to Convolve’s technology, were not told that it was protected under an NDA,” the court filing reads. “Certain technologies Seagate now claims to have independently developed were, in fact, influenced by Convolve’s technology.

Galloway’s claims are the latest in a decade-long suit between Convolve and Seagate, in which the former, along with MIT, is seeking $800 million for the use of noise-reduction technology.

I started looking around, because frankly, I could not remember why I knew the name Convolve, After a bit of searching, I decided it was because it has been so very long since I first read about this – more than a decade ago (This was before I read anything more than the first line of the story). Still the suit continues.

I looked several places for more information, but much of this is still clouded by the suit itself. However, from wikipedia-

Automatic acoustic management and Convolve lawsuit

In 2000-07-13, Convolve Inc. and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filed a lawsuit against Compaq Computer Corp. and Seagate Technology Inc. in the US District Court Southern District of New York, alleging that the defendants had stolen Convolve’s computer disk drive technologies (US patents 4,916,635 and 5,638,267) and had been incorporated into Seagate’s products as ‘Sound Barrier Technology’ (SBT).[5][6] In 2001-11-06, claim for US patent 6,314,473 was added to the claim, and Convolve asserted amended Seagate’s infringement of patent 6,314,473 in 2002-01-25, which claimed Seagate’s infringement was willful.[7]

During the course of lawsuit, National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh claimed the insurers have no duty to defend Seagate, but a federal judge in California ruled that NUFICOP must defend the claim.[8][9]

Although Seagate had tried to suppress evidence from Seagate’s opinion counsel’s conclusions on attorney-client privilege grounds, Convolve claimed that the evaluation was fair game for discovery. The district court found that Seagate had waived the privilege to all documents within the scope of the waiver as defined in re Echostar Communs. Corp, and ordered Seagate to turn over all documents exchanged amongst outside counsel relating to the alleged use by Seagate of the Convolve patents.[10] Seagate unsuccessfully tried to stay this decision at the district court level before the Federal Circuit stepped in.[11] However, the Federal Circuit determined that the waiver of attorney-client privilege should not be extended to trial counsel.[12]

In 2008, the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled in favor of Convolve Inc. and against Seagate Technology Inc. The Board denied Seagate’s motions challenging the patentability of Convolve’s claims. Seagate did not appeal the Board’s decision.[13][14] In 2008-08-20, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) concluded U.S. patent 6,314,473 was valid, without change to the originally issued claim scope. Convolve also filed lawsuit against Dell Computer, Western Digital, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, Inc., and Hitachi Ltd., asserting the ‘473 and another patent.[15] In 2009-04-01, USPTO concluded five of the original U.S. Patent 4,916,635 (‘635) claim were valid, but the patent had expired during reexamination proceedings. The ruling allowed Convolve to claim damages against Seagate prior to the patent’s expiration, with trial beginning in January 2010.[16]

As a result of the lawsuit, Seagate drives has stopped supporting automatic acoustic management on hard drives beginning with Seagate Barracuda 7200.7, before rulings of the trial had been decided. Nevertheless, some Barracuda 7200.7 drives included AAM support.[17] In later products such as Seagate Barracuda 7200.12, the quiet seek mode is set at the factory and cannot be adjusted by end users.[18]

My quick question: How has this helped either side? Seagate is apparently still infringing, hoping to build up enough money to pay the court-ordered fines, or their lawyers enough to get the case thrown out or won. Convolve does the same for its benefit, and both sides continue to spend money along a path that is too convoluted and takes far too long.

Either way, if the suit was settled, the two companies could go on to more productive things, with Seagate either licking its wounds and continuing on, or getting away with something, and Convolve moving on to new things to accomplish.

With a speedy resolution, we might be getting other things through the courts; things that have waited far too long to be heard.

The world refuses to wait while a few people refuse to settle and get on with things. Putting things into the future (January 2010 was the far future at the time) doesn’t make them go away, it only further mucks up the workings of the system.


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