Seagate, Compaq Sued over Drive Technology

SAN FRANCISCO (07/13/2000) - Compaq Computer Corp. and disk drive maker Seagate Technology Inc. have been stung with an US$800 million lawsuit that accuses them of stealing a patented technology that can be used to improve the performance of computer disk drives.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by Convolve Inc., a privately held company based in New York. In a statement Thursday, Convolve claims it demonstrated its technology to Compaq and Seagate officials during licensing negotiations in 1998 and 1999, and that the two firms then misappropriated its technology.

The New York firm is seeking at least $800 million in damages, as well as an injunction barring Compaq and Seagate from manufacturing or selling disk drives or computers that incorporate Seagate's "Sound Barrier Technology" (SBT). The suit charges the companies with patent infringement, fraud, tortuous interference and breach of contract.

Spokesmen for both Compaq and Seagate said their companies haven't had a chance to review the lawsuit yet, and so were unable to comment. Convolve did not immediately return a call seeking additional information.

Seagate introduced its SBT technology on June 6, describing it as a set of features that optimize a disk drive for quieter operation. The drive maker said it would introduce the technology in the coming months, initially in PCs made by Compaq.

Convolve meanwhile, develops and markets a technology called Input Shaping, which can also be used to reduce vibration in disk drives and make them perform more quickly and quietly. According to Convolve, Input Sharing was developed in the late 1980s at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) by a handful of engineers, one of whom founded Convolve in 1989.

MIT granted Convolve an exclusive license to use the technology, which can also be used in other types of high-precision machinery including robot arms, according to Convolve. MIT joined the New York firm in its suit against the two computer equipment makers.

Convolve said it also holds patents for another technology that allows users to select whether they want faster or quieter performance from their disk drives.

That technology is also the subject of a lawsuit against Compaq and Seagate, according to Convolve.

Compaq is the world's largest PC maker, while Seagate is the world's largest maker of computer disk drives.

Compaq, in Houston, Texas, can be reached at +1-281-370-0670 or on the Web at http://www.compaq.com/. Seagate, in Scotts Valley, California, can be reached at +1-831-438-6550 or on the Web at http://www.seagate.com/. Convolve, in New York, can be reached at +1-212-267-6775 and on the Web at http://www.convolve.com/.

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