Microsoft has filed a patent infringement actionagainst Salesforce.com.
1. Method for mapping between logical data and physical data
2. System and method for providing and displaying a web page having an embedded menu
3. Method and system for stacking toolbars in a computer display
4. Automated web site creation using template driven generation of active server page applications
5. Aggregation of system settings into objects
6. Timing and velocity control for displaying graphical information (2 counts)
7. Method and system for identifying and obtaining computer software from a remote computer
8. System and method for controlling access to data entities in a computer network
I make no comment on the legal validity of these claims. On the broader issue though, Microsoft says this:
Microsoft has been a leader and innovator in the software industry for decades and continues to invest billions of dollars each year in bringing great software products and services to market. We have a responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to safeguard that investment, and therefore cannot stand idly by when others infringe our IP rights
My observation is that I have seen Salesforce.com shake up the industry by making its multi-tenant online application and platform work for its customers. Although there are some parallels, the Salesforce.com platform is more radical than Microsoft Azure and has more potential to reduce costs, because it is based on a single shared application, rather than being a hosted platform for custom applications. The differences are not absolute, because the Force.com platform also supports custom applications, and Microsoft also offers multi-tenanted applications, but if you look at the core propositions the distinction is valid.
Again, I have no idea what the legal outcome will be, but from a public relations perspective this does not look good for Microsoft. It raises the question: is Microsoft litigating because it cannot succeed in the market?
Small companies and patent trolls sue large companies because they have little to lose, and potentially a lot to gain. Large companies show more restraint. I have always assumed that there are thousands of plausible patent infringements among the largest technology companies, and that the industry would descend into a kind of litigation meltdown if all of them were pursued, to nobody’s benefit other than lawyers.
The question then: why is Microsoft going after Salesforce.com now?