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Sweating Springpath fails to defuse SimpliVity's patent bomb

Jury trial beckons as hyper upstart risks business disaster

Hyperconverged software biz Springpath has lost an attempt to have SimpliVity's patent infringement case against it thrown out.

If SimpliVity wins its legal fight at trial, Springpath's Data Platform product could be banned from sale, triggering the collapse of its Cisco OEM deal. Cisco's HyperFlex product is based on Springpath's Data Platform software.

In a judgment [PDF] by the Massachusetts district court earlier this month, Springpath's motion to dismiss SimpliVity's legal action was denied by Magistrate David Hennessy.

SimpliVity alleges [PDF] Springpath infringes US Patent 8,478,799, which describes a "namespace file system accessing an object store," and was issued to SimpliVity on July 2, 2013. Specifically, Springpath's Data Platform software rips off SimpliVity's patented technology, it is claimed.

Here's a timeline of the case:

  • Sep 2015 – SimpliVity files original complaint for patent infringement.
  • Oct 2015 – SimpliVity files First Amended Complaint correcting a typo.
  • Nov 2015 – Springpath files motion to dismiss FAC.
  • Mar 2016 – SimpliVity files Second Amended Complaint.
  • Mar 2016 – Springpath moves to dismiss SAC.
  • Jul 2016 – Springpath motion to dismiss denied.

In dismissing one part of Springpath's motion the judge amusingly said: "Thus, to consider the features which Springpath (correctly) states SimpliVity has not alleged Data Platform to mimic, is not quite to shoot an arrow and draw a target around it, but instead to draw a target away from where the arrow has landed and then blame the archer for missing the mark."

The judge indicated he thought it was reasonable to characterize Springpath's post-complaint conduct (after Sep 2015, and including Cisco HyperFlex activities) "as Springpath knowing or having reason to know of facts which would lead a reasonable man to realize his actions are unreasonably risky, since it knew litigation was afoot."

This constitutes a plausible basis for SimpliVity to claim willful infringement. If the court finds such infringement happened, then enhanced damages could be awarded to SimpliVity as well as Springpath being prevented from selling the infringing product.

Since that is its main if not only product, then that puts its entire business at risk, and would result in Cisco looking elsewhere for its HyperFlex software. In fact, HyperFlex would have to be withdrawn from sale until fresh and non-infringing software could replace the Springpath software; a process which could take many months, unless Cisco has a Plan B in its back pocket.

In light of this, Cisco and Nutanix deal rumors aren't going to go away. ®

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