Will software patents delay Cloud Computing's advance?

Will software patents and litigation slow the adoption of cloud computing?
Written by Dan Kusnetzky, Contributor

While speaking about the issues that will accelerate or inhibit the adoption of cloud computing, my 451 Group colleague, Henry Baltazar, mentioned that he was tracking an interesting cases Mitchell Prust has filed against Apple Computers and SoftLayer Technologies. Software patents have been the topic of a great deal of discussion since they were allowed.

Here's what Henry had to say:

Over the last few months, Mitchell Prust an inventor based out of St Paul Minnesota has filed two lawsuits against technology vendors and service providers based on three patents he was awarded between 2004 and 2005.  Prust was a Technology Strategist for content management and delivery service provider WAM!NET - which changed its name to Multimax in 2006, and was later acquired by Harris in June 2007 - during the years in which he initially filed for the patents.  Prust filed both of his suits at the Texas Eastern District Court, and is seeking injunctive relief, compensatory damages no less than reasonable royalty, interest, costs and attorneys fees from the defendants.

Prust filed his first lawsuit against Apple Inc on April 2, 2009 which alleges that Apple has infringed on three specific U.S. patents, and has actively induced others to infringe as well.  On August 5th, 2009, Prust filed a similar lawsuit against Plano, Texas-based hosting provider SoftLayer Technologies and its partner NetMass Inc. - an online backup service provider based in McKinney, Texas. In both of Prust's lawsuits the referenced patents are:

  • U.S. Patent 6,714,968 entitled "Method and System for Seamless Access to a Remote Storage Server Utilizing Multiple Access Interfaces Executing on the Remote Server"
  • U.S. Patent 6,735,623 entitled "Method and System for Accessing a Remote Storage Area"
  • U.S. Patent 6,952,724 entitled "Network-Based Remote Data Storage Systems Having Multiple Access Interfaces"

Prust's patents discuss basic storage principles commonly associated today with Cloud Storage - with a plurality of storage servers and storage systems providing customers with access to 'virtual storage areas' for remote data file storage.  Digging a little deeper into the patents, Prust also claims his invention extends beyond data storage and into the realm of remote processing - in which case the servers and storage within a 'virtual storage area' can be used to process client data stored within them to run complementary tasks such as compression, encryption/decryption, and data conversion.    In the patents, Prust highlights a number of different means for moving data to a 'virtual storage area' including WebDAV, HTTP, SMB (Server Message Block) and FTP.

What's your opinion? Will software patents and litigation slow the adoption of cloud computing?

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