Salesforce.com is accusing Microsoft of infringing on five of its patents, in a lawsuit countering the suit Microsoft filed in May against the cloud-based software company. Salesforce.com is asking for a jury trial, as well as unspecified damages. Microsoft indicates that it plans to press forward with its own lawsuit, which accuses Salesforce.com of violating nine of its patents. Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff has referred to Microsoft as a patent troll.
Salesforce.com is suing Microsoft for allegedly infringing on five of its
patents, in what could be seen as the inevitable countermove to the Microsoft
lawsuit filed in May against the cloud-based software company. Salesforce.com
is asking for unspecified damages, as well as a jury trial.
The lawsuit, filed June 24 in the Federal District
Court for the District of Delaware, is case number 1:10-cv-00555.
The Salesforce.com patents in question are "Dynamic Multi-Level Cache
Manager," "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" and
"Apparatus and Methods for Provisioning Services." All were issued by
the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office between 2004 and 2007. Salesforce.com
creates and markets cloud-based applications for business intelligence and
"Microsoft's continuing acts of infringement have caused and are
causing irreparable harm to Salesforce.com, for which Salesforce.com has no
adequate remedy at law," the filing read. "The hardships that would
be imposed by an injunction are less than those faced by Salesforce.com should
an injunction not issue."
Microsoft products that violate the patents, Salesforce.com claimed, include
Windows Server AppFabric platform, the Windows Error Reporting system for Windows
7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, SharePoint, the Windows Live Delegated
Authentication system, and the .NET
Microsoft indicated June 25 that it will move forward with its own lawsuit
"We remain confident in 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," Microsoft Deputy Chief Counsel Horacio Gutierrez said in a
Microsoft filed its original intellectual property suit against Salesforce.com May
18, alleging infringement on nine of its patents. While the amount of damages
sought remained unspecified, Microsoft's patents in the suit included specific
areas such as, "Method and system for mapping between logical data and
physical data," "Method and system for stacking tool bars in a
computer display" and "System and method for providing and displaying
a Web page having an embedded menu."
Analysts questioned the
reasoning behind Microsoft's suit.
"Microsoft considers these to be core patents, ideas that differentiate
Microsoft's offerings broadly," Rob Enderle, principal analyst of the
Enderle Group, told eWEEK May 19. "They won't license these and approached
Salesforce and Salesforce evidently [blew] them off, likely thinking that
Microsoft wouldn't litigate because they rarely do."
At the time, Enderle suggested that the original Microsoft suit could be the
beginning of a very protracted legal battle.
"Microsoft uses the threat of litigation, and to use that threat
effectively and not have to litigate broadly it has to be real and
frightening," he wrote. "This means from time to time they have
to make an example of a company so that the threat works and they don't have to
incur massive legal fees every time there is a problem like this."
Even before its own lawsuit, however, Salesforce.com gave indications that it
would push back against Microsoft. During a May 20 earnings call, Salesforce.com
CEO Marc Benioff minced no words, referring to Microsoft as a collective of
"They're basically the alley thugs," Benioff said, according to a transcript published on Seeking Alpha. "Personally, I'm just disappointed
to see this from a former leader of our industry, but it's [eminently]
resolvable, and it's not material to our day-to-day business."
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.