Storage wars rage on as Pure Storage, EMC ratchet up legal spat

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Just in time for Thanksgiving, Pure Storage has charged that storage rival EMC stole one of its flash-storage arrays in an attempt to steal trade secrets, and EMC has responded with a patent infringement suit.

This is just the latest in a drama started last month when EMC sued a former salesman, charging that he took proprietary EMC information with him to Pure Storage. EMC subsequently sued Pure Storage itself alleging that it had hired dozens of former EMC employees who had “stolen tens of thousands of pages of proprietary, highly confidential and competitively sensitive EMC materials.”

On Tuesday, Pure Storage filed court documents alleging that EMC last year  “surreptitiously obtained a Pure Storage array, absconded with the device to EMC offices, and unlawfully tested the machine to learn the trade secrets underlying Pure Storage’s success.”

“EMC’s theft was not an isolated incident, but part of an institutional practice that routinely employs unlawful, anti-competitive means to dominate the data storage market,” the document read. The Wall Street Journal blog has more here.

Pure Storage CEO Scott Dietzen has proclaimed the company’s ethical stance from the get-go and on Tuesday posted a blog addressing the latest charges. The gist:

“It is no coincidence this comes at a time when the storage industry is poised for the most disruptive change in decades, as $15B annual spend shifts from performance (oxymoron) mechanical disk to solid-state flash. In that endeavor we welcome competition, particularly with EMC—both Pure Storage and EMC’s XtremIO are poised to benefit greatly from this transition (competitive summary here).”

In a statement Wednesday morning, EMC said:

“The facts remain – Pure Storage has waged a deliberate, unlawful campaign to steal EMC intellectual property. This latest patent infringement lawsuit is further evidence that Pure Storage has engaged in unauthorized use of EMC’s proprietary and patented technology. Again, we are simply taking the necessary legal action to protect EMC’s rights.”

Don’t expect this legal wrangling to dissipate any time soon. Pure Storage was founded four years ago to pursue all-flash arrays which offer very fast performance but are pricier than traditional hard drives. EMC bought XtremIO  for $430 million last year to hasten its entry into flash, but until it launched XtremIO boxes in September, it’s been fielding hybrid flash-and-disk drives as a response to the flash threat.

Pure Storage, which nailed a massive $150 million VC round in August, is positioning itself for an IPO.

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