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Seagate Accused of Stealing HDD Tech

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 45 comments

The New York Times reports that a former employee of Seagate Technology is accusing the company of stealing hard drive technology from Convolve, and incorporating the stolen tech into its own products. The court documents (pdf), recently filed with a federal court in Manhattan, detail the former employee's "eyewitness account," and even claims that Seagate intentionally destroyed evidence related to its 10-year lawsuit with Convolve.

The original lawsuit stems back to 2000, with Convolve and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suing Seagate and Compaq Computer. The former parties accused the latter of patent infringement in regards to technology that reduces noise and vibration of hard drives. Convolve and MIT sought $800 million in damages, however the legal battle still continues to this day.

According to court and regulatory filings, representatives from Seagate and Convolve met during 1998 and 1999 to discuss what Convolve had discovered. Seagate, in turn, signed an NDA, promising that the knowledge gained would not be used in future products. But in 2000, Convolve found itself suing Seagate over the "sound barrier" technology implemented in Seagate drives. Convolve said that the technology relied on its "reduction innovations" as revealed in the NDA meetings.

Now the former Seagate employee, a Seagate engineer up until July 2009, has stepped forward with claims of foul play. He contacted Convolve's lawyers shortly after leaving. “I was deceived by my management’s failure to tell me that the Convolve technology discussed within Seagate was NDA protected,” Mr. Galloway said in a section of the affidavit reproduced by Ms. Steinberg. "If I had known about Convolve’s NDA with Seagate, I would not have worked on competing technology."

Game over for Seagate, game over.

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  • 21 Hide
    trevorvdw , December 29, 2009 11:19 PM
    Hmmm bitter ex employee anyone?
  • 21 Hide
    bdcrlsn , December 29, 2009 11:24 PM
    Ironic that the idea of the engineer being a disgruntled employee never seemed to come up...
  • 16 Hide
    rdawise , December 30, 2009 12:24 AM
    Extremely easy for Seagate's lawyers to paint the ex-employee as "disgruntled". Let's hope he was never heard saying "I hate this place" or "You'll be sorry".
Other Comments
  • 21 Hide
    trevorvdw , December 29, 2009 11:19 PM
    Hmmm bitter ex employee anyone?
  • 21 Hide
    bdcrlsn , December 29, 2009 11:24 PM
    Ironic that the idea of the engineer being a disgruntled employee never seemed to come up...
  • 11 Hide
    hakesterman , December 29, 2009 11:32 PM
    Paybacks are a bitch...............
  • 14 Hide
    saint19 , December 29, 2009 11:39 PM
    Maybe yes, maybe not, but everyone big company have his secret.
  • 9 Hide
    xxsk8er101xx , December 30, 2009 12:14 AM
    trevorvdwHmmm bitter ex employee anyone?

    it says he left the company. Can't be bitter if you leave. Some times it's best to come forward than to be involved and get sued or thrown in jail.
  • 8 Hide
    brendano257 , December 30, 2009 12:17 AM
    Blah, got two WD Green's. Couldn't be more happy. Too bad greed is so prevalent in modern business. There's not any sort of passion for a greater good/technological advances, only profits and $ signs. It's just too bad.
  • 16 Hide
    rdawise , December 30, 2009 12:24 AM
    Extremely easy for Seagate's lawyers to paint the ex-employee as "disgruntled". Let's hope he was never heard saying "I hate this place" or "You'll be sorry".
  • -3 Hide
    majora28 , December 30, 2009 1:47 AM
    so whats why their harddrives sucks
  • 8 Hide
    betrayer_ , December 30, 2009 3:03 AM
    dont think its game over for seagate
  • -6 Hide
    cjl , December 30, 2009 3:27 AM
    This whole lawsuit is ridiculous. Convolve is suing Seagate because Seagate independently developed technology that has a somewhat similar function to Convolve's tech (though entirely different methods), and the entire lawsuit is bogus from the start. There are absolutely things wrong with Seagate to be sure, but the convolve issue is not one of them.

    Oh, and Seagate just had layoffs recently, and July (conveniently) happens to be the month in which pay was cut off for all laid-off employees. Coincidence? Probably not.
  • -9 Hide
    OvrClkr , December 30, 2009 5:08 AM
    Seagate didn't have a chance anyways, WD is on top of the competition when it comes to platter drives..

    all I can say is "LMFAO" to Seagate =)
  • 3 Hide
    techguy378 , December 30, 2009 5:20 AM
    Patent trolls like Convolve, NTP, Rambus, i4i, TiVo and others need to stop harassing companies with frivolous lawsuits. I can't believe the courts sided with the latter three companies even though RIM, memory makers, Microsoft and cable/satellite companies didn't duplicate the technology they were being sued over. They created totally different technologies that did the same thing which is completely legal.
  • -9 Hide
    techguy378 , December 30, 2009 5:20 AM


    Patent trolls like Convolve, NTP, Rambus, i4i, TiVo and others need to stop harassing companies with frivolous lawsuits. I can't believe the courts sided with the latter four companies even though RIM, memory makers, Microsoft and cable/satellite companies didn't duplicate the technology they were being sued over. They created totally different technologies that did the same thing which is completely legal.
  • 11 Hide
    huron , December 30, 2009 10:33 AM
    Having a close family relative that has numerous patents, I can tell you that sometimes these big companies would rather knowingly infringe on a patent and claim ignorance as opposed to actually paying for it.

    The timing is a little strange, but you never know...
  • 0 Hide
    Yuka , December 30, 2009 11:00 AM
    Does this mean HDDs are gonna go up in price? If so, I hope Seagate can reach an understandment/agreement with that company.

    Cheers!
  • -3 Hide
    yang , December 30, 2009 12:10 PM
    OvrClkrSeagate didn't have a chance anyways, WD is on top of the competition when it comes to platter drives..all I can say is "LMFAO" to Seagate =)


    are you serious? I for one never bought an overpriced WD hard drive when the alternatively cheaper and equally performing hard drive available from seagate. I'm sure many would agree with me
  • 3 Hide
    jcknouse , December 30, 2009 12:36 PM
    techguy378Patent trolls like Convolve, NTP, Rambus, i4i, TiVo and others need to stop harassing companies with frivolous lawsuits. I can't believe the courts sided with the latter three companies even though RIM, memory makers, Microsoft and cable/satellite companies didn't duplicate the technology they were being sued over. They created totally different technologies that did the same thing which is completely legal.


    I believe that if you check into it, you will actually find that the biggest patent, trademark, and copyright filer in the United States, as well as the company with the most infringement claims in United States court currently and for the past several years....is Microsoft.

    Microsoft is the biggest, baddest patent troll of them all.

    As for them creating "totally different technologies that did the same thing which is completely legal", that is near impossible to prove and substantiate when your representatives have met with, discussed, and overviewed the technology of another company's work and intellectual property.

    Besides that, the courts now twice seem to agree that Microsoft "willfully infringed" on a patent. That means they knew of the existence of that patent, and used the technology without permission anyway.

    The 800 lb gorilla is about to get thumped.
  • 4 Hide
    o0RaidR0o , December 30, 2009 1:08 PM
    Here's my question if Convolve and Seagate had a meeting, albeit with NDA firmly in place, and Seagate having gazed and used Convolve's technology to spring board there own is that an infringement? I mean if I came up with an idea based off of someone's else's work but went in a different direction, similar but different is it still an infringement?

    There was a famous lawsuit in Detroit in 1990, a jury decided that Ford infringed on Kearns' patent, though it concluded the infringement was not deliberate. Ford had contended the patent was invalid because the windshield system contained no new concepts. But Kearns argued a new combination of parts made his invention unique.

    I remember the rational he used about the combination of parts, he give several books to witness that tried to debunk the infringement claims as having no new concept, and asked the witness if the books he handed him were considered unique writings, and the witness said yes, he asked the witness to read certain words like, the, it, and, etc, and asked are these words considered new concepts, and the witness said no, and Kearns said but in there combination it makes the whole unique, which I thought was brilliant.

    Could that be applied here?
  • 5 Hide
    sublifer , December 30, 2009 1:10 PM
    techguy378Patent trolls like Convolve, NTP, Rambus, i4i, TiVo and others need to stop harassing companies with frivolous lawsuits.

    Don't be a tool. Yes some of those companies may be guilty of patent trolling but don't assume every lawsuit involving patents is trolling. As mentioned in the article, Convolve approached Seagate, under NDA, with their technology, likely wanting their patent/technology bought, leased, or work as a partner, only to find Seagate later just took that technology and used it anyway.
  • 4 Hide
    huron , December 30, 2009 2:44 PM
    subliferDon't be a tool. Yes some of those companies may be guilty of patent trolling but don't assume every lawsuit involving patents is trolling. As mentioned in the article, Convolve approached Seagate, under NDA, with their technology, likely wanting their patent/technology bought, leased, or work as a partner, only to find Seagate later just took that technology and used it anyway.


    Excellent point. I don't know how so many people jump to conclusions without the details. I believe the situation you presented, about approaching Seagate with hopes of lease/purchase, sounds very plausible.
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