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Analyst: SOA may unleash the patent dogs

Supply Chain Digest is reporting that supply chain software vendor i2 has filed a patent infringement suit against SAP, claiming SAP violated a number of its software patents related to supply chain optimization and modeling software techniques.
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Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributor on

Supply Chain Digest is reporting that supply chain software vendor i2 has filed a patent infringement suit against SAP, claiming SAP violated a number of its software patents related to supply chain optimization and modeling software techniques.

A boatload of patents will get wheeled out once someone commercializes an SOA-based application The editors at SC Digest say the impact of this latest patent infringement suit is "unclear," adding that such patent disputes "tend ultimately to be settled or won based on a financial payment, rather than forcing the loser to actually change its software." But, they add, "anything is possible."

So it's probable that money will change hands, lawyers will get richer, and the issue will fade away. However, Andrew White, a Gartner analyst, worries that the rise of SOA will unleash more such lawsuits.  He put it this way to SC Digest:

"In the SOA world we are approaching, the ease with which vendor’s services are exposed to another will increase, and so vendors and users will develop new ways (or think they are inventing new ways) to do things.... So there are a boatload of patents already out there that will get wheeled out once someone tries to commercialize an SOA-based application."

Yikes. And it gets worse. White says things will grow more complicated as more sophisticated and complex applications get abstracted into a service layer.

In my last post, Charles Zedlewski gave us a sense of SAP's response (he does not officially speak for SAP) to Bruce Richardson's dire predictions for ERP systems, that ERP apps are all doomed to be abstracted away into the SOA cloud. SAP appears to be working hard to leverage the SOA vision to its advantage, but how many vendors will bring out the lawyers to fight threats to their market share as SOA turns the software business model on its head? What if SOA-based composite applications replicate the processes of a commercial application a little too well?

Could a series of patent lawsuits put a big chill on the SOA vision? Or -- as is the case with open source -- is the SOA wave now too strong and popular to be stopped by patent lawsuits? I think the latter, but, remember, "anything is possible."

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