Salesforce retaliates; sues Microsoft for alleged patent infringement

Salesforce retaliates; sues Microsoft for alleged patent infringement

Summary: It took just a little over a month for Salesforce.com to answer Microsoft's charge of patent infringement. On June 24, Salesforce sued Microsoft, making its own claims of patent infringement.

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It took just a little over a month for Salesforce.com to answer Microsoft's charge of patent infringement. On June 24, Salesforce sued Microsoft, making its own claims of patent infringement.

According to Bloomberg, the Salesforce complaint cites Microsoft's .Net platform and SharePoint, which "perform in a way that violates the Salesforce.com patents, and the 'risk of infringement was either known or so obvious that it should have been known by Microsoft.'"

Salesforce is bringing in the big guns for this one. The company has hired long-time Microsoft nemesis David Boies, founder of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP -- who represented the U.S. Department of Justice in its antitrust case against Microsoft last decade -- to make its case.

Microsoft sued Salesforce for alleged patent infringement on May 18. The patents on which Microsoft is claiming Salesforce is infringing -- and for which Microsoft is seeking treble damages and fees -- include:

  • “method and system for mapping between logical data and physical data”
  • “system and method for providing and displaying a web page having an embedded menu”
  • “method and system for stacking toolbars in a computer display”
  • “automated web site creation using template driven generation of active server page applications”
  • “aggregation of system settings into objects”
  • “timing and velocity control for displaying graphical information”
  • “method and system for identifying and obtaining computer software from a remote computer”
  • “system and method for controlling access to data entities in a computer network”

It was pretty obvious Salesforce wasn't going to roll over, after Microsoft lodged its case, with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff calling Microsoft a "patent troll" and "alley thug."

I've asked Microsoft for comment on the Salesforce case. No word back yet. Also no sight of the Salesforce complaint so far... More to come.

Update: Here's Microsoft's official statement, attributable to Horacio Gutierrez, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Intellectual Property & Licensing:

"We are reviewing Salesforce.com's filing, which we have just received.  We remain confident about our position and will continue to press ahead with the complaint we initiated in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington."

Update 2: Here's the full Salesforce complaint (via TechCrunch).  Salesforce cites the following patents as among those upon which Microsoft is infringing:

  • "dynamic multi-level cache"
  • "method and system for handling errors in a distributed computer system"
  • "work sharing and communicating in a web site system"
  • "Java object cache server for databases"
  • "apparatus and methods for provisioning services"

Salesforce is alleging that several Microsoft products and technologies infringe on these patents, including Windows Server App Fabric, Windows Error Reporting (as incorporated in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2), SharePoint and the .Net platform (specifically ASP.Net Web services).

Topics: Enterprise Software, Microsoft

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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62 comments
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  • Don't you think it's about time.....

    That these folks start helping each other, instead of sueing each other?
    gsmcten@...
    • Nah. Not really.

      @gsmcten@... And for stealing what I was going to say, I'm gonna have to sure you for stealing my idea. <br><br>:P

      Actually, I agree. This thing where everyone is sue happy needs to stop.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • RE: Salesforce retaliates; sues Microsoft for allged patent infringement

    allged?
    clevelandrox@...
    • RE: Salesforce retaliates; sues Microsoft for allged patent infringement

      @bob.kowalczyk@... Well, it's still alleged in THIS instance. Of course we all know MS would NEVER infringe on anyone else's IP. We also all know how much MS innovates in everything they do.
      dabble53
      • RE: Salesforce retaliates; sues Microsoft for allged patent infringement

        @dabble53

        you have quite the sense of humor
        calithor
      • RE: Salesforce retaliates; sues Microsoft for allged patent infringement

        @dabble53

        I think bob.kowalczyk was referring to the spelling of the word.
        mKind
    • fixed

      Thanks
      Mary Jo Foley
    • RE: Salesforce retaliates; sues Microsoft for allged patent infringement

      @bob.kowalczyk@...
      Yes alleged, do you have any evidence in this case everyone else doesn't know?
      Stan57
  • RE: Salesforce retaliates; sues Microsoft for allged patent infringement

    The US has the craziest patenting system in the world when it comes to software. Copy the Europeans or go mad!!!
    GrahamDCox
  • How about a little patent law rewriting?

    Isn't it time the idiotic patent laws regarding software get changed? Maybe it will stop MS from blackmailing companies that use Linux over "phantom" infringements.
    rahn@...
    • RE: Salesforce retaliates; sues Microsoft for allged patent infringement

      @rahn@... agreed! Some of these patents are so ridiculous it's not funny. Next thing you know we will all be sued for the method and velocity of wiping our asses because MS has a patent on that.
      Al_nyc
      • Hell no not MS

        Thats my patent and the alphabet and numbers as well pay up!
        Altotus
      • RE: Salesforce retaliates; sues Microsoft for allged patent infringement

        @adr5@... I agree. Software patents are totally ridiculous...and I say this a person who actually has software patents!
        There once (still is?) a patent on applying vector math! It was considered novel because it applied to a car...i.e., if the car is at point A, and travels x feet in direction y, then it can be shown that the car is now at point B. This was a real patent!
        dabble53
      • Your DNA

        @adr5@... It does not stop there, at all. Some of the research companies claim patent rights to your DNA. They already kotcha.
        rketchum@...
  • There are only three reasons software patents still exist

    They are:

    1. They are used by a dominant firm to prevent competition by newcomers;

    2. They provide software "trolls" a method of making an income; and

    3. ?They give patent lawyers a grossly excessive income.........

    The USA needs to move and move quickly to ban software patents completely. It is holding back innovation and development for the sake of pure greed.
    TonyOz
    • 3. They give patent lawyers a grossly excessive income.........

      .... Which is why we will NEVER overhaul the US Patent System!
      PC Ferret
    • That'd be overkill...

      @TonyOz ... to "ban software patents completely" would be overkill. If I fry my brain to create an awesome application and plan to pay the bills by selling it, then you can bet your asteroids that I'll sue you if you blatantly copy any *unique* aspects of that application for your own benefit.

      This is NOT to say that anyone should be able to sue over someone else's use of common items in a program, like loading files, reading databases, etc. It's a fine line to draw, but what we need is to reform existing law so that it recognizes the unique nature of software. Programs that perform similar tasks will have at least some similar code and use similar methodologies. It's likely that both parties in this instance are guilty of patent trolling. If they'd just leave each other alone everything would be simpler, and maybe we'd have the pleasure of seeing some dough-faced lawyer miss a payment on his Lexus.
      neverhome
      • RE: Salesforce retaliates; sues Microsoft for allged patent infringement

        @neverhome " If they'd just leave each other alone everything would be simpler, and maybe we'd have the pleasure of seeing some dough-faced lawyer miss a payment on his Lexus."

        Leaving each other alone is not sufficient. Just having the frivolous patents lets them threaten smaller companies for very little cost to them, and that completely kills innovation.

        The only winners in the current patent system are large corporations with armies of lawyers that have the resources to stake out every marginally good idea and claim it as their exclusive property, and the lawyers themselves. Everybody else looses, including the public.
        mark_in_sf
      • RE: Salesforce retaliates; sues Microsoft for allged patent infringement

        @neverhome : Thank you. This "Free Love" crap has got to go, it doesn't work...period.
        ItsTheBottomLine
  • Live by the sword, die by the sword...

    that is the lesson these technology companies need to learn when it comes to patent trolling. When it comes to software, patents would be the dumbest thing since Microsoft Bob if not for the fact that they predate it. When patents apply to abstract ideas, everyone loses. The only real intellectual property protections should be copyright protection preventing someone from copying code from another vendors product into your own. Common sense has to kick in at some point, but as long as we've got the US patent office handling software there isn't much chance of that happening anytime soon.
    jasonp@...