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Article

Microsoft Sues Salesforce Over Nine Patents

Look-and-Feel, Other Issues Involved, Unspecified Damages

Microsoft, which is not given to suing over patents, sued SaaS pioneer Salesforce.com in a Seattle federal court Tuesday for infringing nine of its software patents.

Salesforce evidently refused to negotiate a license with Microsoft because the terse 10-page suit says Microsoft "provided defendant notice of its infringement through, inter alia, service of this complaint and prior communications between the parties."

It must have blown Microsoft off because the suit goes on to say that "defendant intends to continue its unlawful infringing activity," leaving Microsoft no other recourse but to seek an injunction along with compensatory damages, treble damages, pre-judgment interest, attorneys fees and costs.

Cnet reports that the 8-K Saleforce filed in January said that "During fiscal 2009, we received a communication from a large technology company alleging that we were infringing upon some of their patents. We continue to analyze the potential merits of their claims, the potential defenses to such claims and potential counterclaims, and the possibility of a license agreement as an alternative to litigation. We are currently in discussions with this company and no litigation has been filed."

Microsoft has only sued one other company on patent charges lately, and that was the Dutch GPS company TomTom last year.

In that action, it said TomTom's use of embedded Linux infringed its FAT file system IP in a case that was settled out-of-court with TomTom paying some unsung amount of damages and pledging to remove the offending code.

The Salesforce case is only the second time the primary issue has been software.

Microsoft claims Salesforce, a competitor to Microsoft's own Dynamics CRM line, infringes nine broad and untested US patents including:

  • 5,742,768 "System and method for providing and displaying a web page having an embedded menu," which dates to 1998;
  • 5,644,737 "Method and system for stacking toolbars in a computer display, dating to 1997;
  • 6,263,352 "Automated web site creation using template driven generation of active server page applications," dating to 2001;
  • 6,122,558 "Aggregation of system settings into objects," dating to 2000;
  • 6,542,164 "Timing and velocity control for displaying graphical information," dating to 2003;
  • 6,281,879, which has the same name as the ‘164 patent but dates 2001;
  • 5,845,077 "Method and system for identifying and obtaining computer software from a remote computer," dating to 1998;
  • 5,941,947 "System and method for controlling access to data entities in a computer network," dating to 1999.

More famous for its licensing pacts, Microsoft is using Sidley Austin, a prominent IP law firm, to press the Salesforce suit and doubtless paying a pretty penny in the process.

In a canned statement, deputy general counsel of intellectual pro perty and licensing Horacio Gutierrez said, "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."

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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