Judge Rules Data-Storage Patent-Infringement Suit Against Xerox, Toshiba Can Proceed

reports that a Delaware federal judge has refused to dismiss nearly a dozen suits brought by a computer engineer against Xerox, Toshiba America,. and others, alleging the companies infringed upon his company’s patented data-storage system, ruling that the computer engineer’s chain of title to the patent is sufficiently clear. The opinion denied motions to dismiss the lawsuit from Xerox, Toshiba, Intuit., EMC, Zoho, Alfresco Software, Dassault Systemes Solidworks, Thomson Reuters, Wolter Kluwer US, Egnyte, and Perforce Software.

The patent is U.S. Patent Number 5,867,686, which involves a system for allowing multiple computers to each read and write on a shared mass-storage device without causing conflicts

History

Computer engineer Kenneth Conner, along with three people, invented the patent and through a series of steps, eventually transferred the patent to a company, Data Speed Technology, he founded with Peter King. The inventors were not affiliated with any corporate employers when they created the storage system. The patent-infringement suits were all filed by Data Speed Technology.

The separate law suits claim that Xerox, Toshiba, et al, are infringing upon the patent by selling information-management products or services, including Intuit Quickbase, Zoho Docs, Xerox DocuShare, and EMC Documentum.

However, Xerox, Toshiba America, et al argued that Data Speed lacked standing to sue because it had not shown it owned all of the patent’s rights. Several assignment agreements and a settlement in an ownership dispute resulted in Peter King owning the patent application. King had lent Data Speed money using the patent as collateral, and under an agreement, King would return the assignment if Data Speed paid back the loan.

Conner and Data Speed never paid back the loan, so the patent interest was transferred to a trust when King died. The trust later sold Conner the patent interest. Conner then later sold the patent to Data Speed through a two-step transaction.

Despite the complicated ownership history of the patent, Judge Robinson ruled that she was “satisfied that, for the purposed of the pending motions to dismiss, [Data Speed] has provided sufficient evidence of the chain of title.”

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