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Microsoft Draws Blood in Salesforce.com Patent Suit

At last, a battle. Microsoft has long rattled its patent saber at much of the industry, particularly the open source crowd, but it finally flashed the sword by suing Salesforce.com for patent infringement.

And Microsoft drew blood.

Oh, it's just a flesh would, to be sure. But this week, Redmond announced a settlement of its patent suit with Salesforce.com (as well as a settlement of Salesforce.com's counter-suit), and Microsoft's press release included this key phrase: "Microsoft indicated that it is being compensated by Salesforce.com"

How much? We don't know? For what, precisely? We're not sure about that, either. But other than the fact that the companies have granted each other some patent coverage, the main thrust of this news is that Microsoft actually used patents as a weapon against a fairly big competitor and got a positive result. (A sure sign that Microsoft "won?" There's a press release about the settlement on the Microsoft Web site--but there isn't one on Salesforce.com's.)

For Marc Benioff, the outspoken CEO of the wildly successful Salesforce.com, this week's settlement must come as a bit of an embarrassment. It was Benioff, after all, who referred to Microsoft as "alley thugs" when the Seattleites first filed suit. But a Salesforce.com spokesperson told multiple media outlets that the company was glad to have the litigation behind it, which doesn't sound as bitter or nasty as it might have.

Still, those vendors in the industry that haven't capitulated to one of Microsoft's patent shake-down offers need to sit up and pay attention. There is, apparently, some bite to match Redmond's bark and a little bit of fresh blood on the company's sword. Future opponents beware.

What's your take on Microsoft's patent baiting? Send it to lpender@rcpmag.com. To the faithful readers who have taken time to write, we will run reader e-mails again soon...really. And thank you.

Posted by Lee Pender on August 05, 2010 at 11:56 AM