Dell, WD, Hitachi charged with violating patents in PCs, drives

The firm claims vendors violated its patents for vibration-control techniques.

Convolve last week filed a federal lawsuit this week charging that Dell, Western Digital and Hitachi Global Storage Technologies have violated its patents for vibration control techniques in hard drives and PCs.

In the complaint filed Wednesday in US District Court in Marshall, Texas, Convolve alleges that PC maker Dell and hard drive manufacturers Western Digital and Hitachi used its patented techniques that allow a device to move an object quickly with minimal vibration.

Convolve alleges that the three firms violated two patents that were issued to the firm in 2001.

Officials from Dell and Hitachi Global Storage Technologies could not be reached for comment Friday. A Western Digital spokesman said the company will "defend itself vigorously against these allegations" but declined any further comment citing the pending litigation.

Representatives at Convolve could not be immediately reached for comment.

In the papers filed in the court, Convolve said that its executives met with Dell officials as far back as 1998 to discuss a possible licensing agreement concerning the technology. The discussions included "simulations and hardware demonstrations" of Convolve's vibration control technology, and the disclosure of confidential and proprietary materials to Dell about a patent application for the technology.

To date, the papers said, no agreement between Convolve and Dell has been reached.

Neil Singer, Ken Pasch, and Warren Seering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology invented the vibration technology. Singer founded Consolve in 1989, and the company gained control of the patents.

In its suit, Convolve said that the technology is included in the NASA Space Shuttle robot arm training system, in cranes built to handle nuclear materials and in X-ray inspection machines.

In the complaint, Convolve alleges that Dell has made, used, sold or distributed PCs - the Dimension 2400, Dimension C521, and Optiplex 740 models - and/or hard disk drives using technology that infringes on one of the patents.

The suit charges that Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, a subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd., uses patented Convolve technology in its HDS722580VLAT20 Deskstar disk drive and the Hitachi L020 and Hitachi L030 storage products. Western Digital is being accused of violating Consolve patent in its WD 400BB, WD800 JB, WD 1600, WD 2000 and other hard drive models.

The suit claims that all three defendants feature some combination of Consolve computer source code, engineering software utilities, documentation and hard disk drive firmware which they do not have a legal right to possess. The company is asking the court to order defendants to pay compensatory damages, interest fees and legal costs.

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