Microsoft Initiates Questionable Patent Lawsuit

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has filed a lawsuit claiming an online software operator breached nine of its patents. The general reaction thus far is that the case has much to do about trying to deter a business competitor, rather than protecting genuine innovation.

The case is against, a company which offers customer management services: its slogan is that it is "the enterprise cloud-computing company", an idea borne out by its phone number, 1-800-NO-SOFTWARE.

Most of Salesforce's products are based on marketing campaigns and tracking sales leads, putting it directly in competition with Microsoft's Dynamics products. That competition has been heating up, with Salesforce working towards capitalizing on the craze for "apps" by having independent developers write their own applications to run on Salesforce's online system.

This ideology is in competition with the more traditional method of people writing programs for the MS Windows operating system.

Microsoft Says Lawsuit is a "Responsibility"

According to Horacio Gutierrez, a senior Microsoft lawyer, "We have a responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to safeguard that investment, and therefore cannot stand idly by when others infringe [on our intellectual property] rights." (Source:

While you can't judge how a court will view Microsoft's claims, it does have to be said that some of the patents involved seem a little flimsy. They cover issues such as using toolbars or embedding a menu into a web page, both of which are used almost universally in the tech world.

Microsoft Opts For Home Ground

It's notable that Microsoft has filed the claim in its own state of Washington. Many major patent cases these days, including those against Microsoft, are filed in Texas. That's because courts there have earned a reputation for being favorable to patent owners by awarding particularly large damages.

Surprisingly, this is only the fourth time in history that Microsoft has initiated a patent case itself. In all other cases, Microsoft has only filed a patent suit as a response to a claim made by a rival. That strategy may give it a strong advantage, as it makes it more likely the claims will descend into a legal war of attrition, a war in which Microsoft usually has a superior arsenal. (Source:

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