Salesforce.com Sues Microsoft over Alleged Patent Violation

 
 
By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2010-06-25
 
 
 

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 other verticals.

"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 platform.

Microsoft indicated June 25 that it will move forward with its own lawsuit against Salesforce.com.

"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.

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 "patent trolls."

"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."

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