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Western Digital, IBM enter patently cosy deal

WD slurps up 100 patents, inks cross-licensing pact

WD has bought some storage patents from Big Blue and the two have also signed a cross-licensing deal.

What has WD netted? More than 100 patents relating to distributed storage, object storage, and emerging non-volatile memory. These get added to its existing 10,000-plus patent portfolio.

The patents involved in the cross-licensing agreement have not been revealed.

WD’s president and COO Mike Cordano said: “This agreement … sets the stage for even more rapid advancement and commercialisation of new data storage solutions. We are building on Western Digital and IBM's long-standing relationship and look forward to future collaborations and business opportunities."

That could be intriguing. Emerging non-volatile memory is a technology category including Intel and Micron’s the 3D XPoint area. HGST demoed a Phase Change Memory device in August last year.

IBM demonstrated its own PCM technology device in May, 2014.

PSS PCIe card

IBM Phase-change memory card

The indications are that WD, which is buying flash fab and products company SanDisk for $19bn, wants to get into the persistent memory/faster-than-flash storage product area.

Regarding object storage tech, HGST also has its Active Archive System using acquired Amplidata object technology.

Distributed storage is a pretty vague term but could imply multi-node, storage system-level activities.

IBM has a patent niche gold-mine, filing 7,335 patents last year, the 23rd consecutive year that IBM topped the annual list of US patent recipients. Twitter bought 900-plus patents from IBM a year ago.

Whether IBM actually profits overall from its technology invention and patent-filing activities is an interesting and unanswered question.

Neither WD nor IBM has said how much cash WD paid IBM for the 100-plus patents it bought. ®

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