Salesforce.com has brought a key figure from Microsoft's past into its patent-infringement lawsuit against the software giant, by retaining David Boies as counsel. The lawsuit is seen by many as a response to Microsoft's own intellectual-property suit filed in May against the cloud-based software company.
Boies originally represented the Justice Department in its landmark antitrust suit against Microsoft, arguing the government's case that the software giant unlawfully maintained a monopoly in the PC arena. Although the relationship between the two organizations has become far more nuanced, with Microsoft executives even complaining to the Justice Department about Google's business practices, chances are good that Boies' portrait is still used as a dartboard in Redmond.
Legal counsel aside, the looming battle between Microsoft and Salesforce suggests the cloud's increased importance for both the enterprise and consumers.
"The stakes are getting bigger and bigger," Ray Wang, an analyst with the Altimeter Group, said in a June 28 interview with eWEEK. "In the battle for the cloud, the two leaders are going to be Salesforce and Microsoft. Microsoft's Azure is the .NET side of the war, while Salesforce is the Java side. So you're going to have drama." Azure is Microsoft's cloud-based development platform.
Nor will the battle end anytime soon, Wang added.
"This is going to continue; it's part of doing business here in the Valley," he said. "Litigation is part of the process as things get ultra-competitive. As the lines between enterprise and consumers blur, that means a huge volume of users, and that's the key here in many ways."
Salesforce is asking for unspecified damages, as well as a jury trial, in its suit against Microsoft, which was filed on June 24 in the Federal District Court for the District of Delaware. The case number is 1:10-cv-00555.
The five Salesforce patents at issue include, "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.
"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," read the filing. "The hardships that would be imposed by an injunction are less than those faced by Salesforce.com should an injunction not issue."
The Microsoft products that allegedly violate the patents, Salesforce claims, 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-perhaps most importantly, given the broader cloud context-the .NET platform.
Microsoft indicated June 25 that it would continue to move forward with its own lawsuit against Salesforce, which alleges infringement of nine of its patents.
"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 statement.