ANOTHER DAFT patent lawsuit has erupted between two competing companies. This time Microsoft has sued Salesforce.
Microsoft claims that Salesforce.com has infringed nine of the Vole's patents with its customer relationship management (CRM) product.
Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of intellectual property and licensing said that the Vole 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."
That is all very well, but getting down to brass tacks here, Salesforce practically invented its market niche and is a business rival that has been doing very well against Microsoft's Dynamics software and services. Salesforce.com flogs subscriptions to Internet business software that runs marketing campaigns and tracks sales leads.
Now it seems that if a company is not doing very well or fears that it is losing ground against a competitor, it dusts off some patents which are a little broad and claims that the rival has nicked its ideas.
We have seen this in the case of Apple versus HTC, where Jobs Mob sued the phone manufacturer rather than the inventor of the Android software, Google, which is alleged to have been Steve Jobs' idea.
In all cases it is unlikely that such outfits sat down and thought, "we can't do this, lets nick another companies ideas." So why assume that they did?
There might be a lot of imitation going on in the technology world, but there is an awful lot of parallel development going on as well.
To say that you have a patent and therefore no one else can make something similar is anticompetitive and bad for the industry. We just wish that someone would reform the whole patent system to exclude software entirely, because all software is just math, and let everyone get on with doing something more sensible. µ