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July 15, 1990

ARDENT FOUNDERS SUE KUBOTA: “OUT TO STEAL OUR TECHNOLOGY”

By CBR Staff Writer

Allen Michels and Matthew Sanders, co-founders of Ardent Computer Corp and co-chairmen of successor company Stardent Computer Inc have blown the fragile network of co-existence agreements between large Japanese corporate investors and their target US start-ups wide open by launching a $50m lawsuit against Ardent’s backer and manufacturing partner, now a 22% shareholder in Stardent, accusing the Japanese farm machinery company of trying to take control of Stardent’s graphics minisupercomputer technology in order to compete against the company in the future. The pair do not have the backing of Stardent chief executive, William Poduska, who told the New York Times that Kubota had in no way tried to steal technology, and had done everything possible to support the company. But the statement two weeks ago from Kubota that it planned to build a Baby Titan in Sunnyvale, which made no mention at all of Stardent (CI No 1,460) raised several eyebrows. The suit alleges that Kubota threatened to withhold agreed financial commitments to Ardent in order to force the merger with Stellar, and subsequently conspired to shift control of the merged company’s technology and key engineers into a wholly owned Kubota subsidiary in the US – presumably referring to the new Kubota Computer Co in Sunnyvale. The lawsuit alleges that the Japanese company secretly planned to develop products that would compete with Stardent products worldwide, despite the agreements restricting Kubota to distributing the products to the Far East.

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