e W EEK. . com best LAWSUIT-O-RAMA BLOG Back in the day—I’m talking medieval Europe—the reigning “Powers That Be” liked to settle their conflicts by launch- ing lots of arrows. Since turning your enemies into pincushions is no longer acceptable, we’ve settled on the next best thing: launching commuter flights’ worth of lawyers at one another. In Microsoft’s case, those lawyers might soon need their own airline. In the past few weeks, the legal tension sur-
rounding the company has ratcheted up to beyond normal
levels, mostly involving patents and intellectual property (IP).
LINUX FOR THE MASSES
Salesforce.com: On May 18, Microsoft filed an IP suit
against Salesforce.com, alleging infringements on nine of
its patents. Salesforce.com offers businesses a cloud-based
productivity suite, and Microsoft’s still wedded to the desktop
and hybrid systems for many of its offerings, but the cloud
model has been gaining traction and could make companies
such as Salesforce.com a larger competitive threat.
On May 17, Microsoft said it would pay $200 million to
settle a patent-infringement suit leveled against it by VirnetX.
HTC and Apple: On April 27, Microsoft said it had
reached an IP agreement with HTC for the firm to license
Microsoft’s patented technology for use in its smartphones
that run Google Android. But HTC is preparing for a patent-infringement lawsuit leveled by Apple, which alleges violations
of iPhone patents. Microsoft’s agreement is viewed as a way
for HTC to buttress its own patent portfolio in advance of that
case. But Microsoft could find its intellectual property embroiled
... which means more lawyers.
Peppermint is a Linux-based operating system that is
cloud- and Web-application centric. Its developers say it
is sleek, user friendly and “insanely fast.” Peppermint—
which was designed for enhanced mobility, efficiency and
ease of use—loads and is ready to use in 25 seconds,
right out of the box.
Do those strategic considerations lie behind Microsoft’s
decision to launch this lawsuit? Analysts disagree. Rob
Enderle, of the Enderle Group, told me: “Microsoft considers these to be core patents, ideas that differentiate
Microsoft’s offerings broadly ... they won’t license these,
and approached Salesforce, and Salesforce evidently
[blew] them off, likely thinking Microsoft wouldn’t litigate
because they rarely do.” However, Enderle thinks that
Microsoft will try to make an example of Salesforce.com.
How to Build a Global
Another analyst, Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies
Associates, theorized that the lawsuit could be an attempt by
Microsoft to monetize its deep patent portfolio.
i4i and VirnetX: In August 2009, a federal judge ruled
that Microsoft had violated i4i’s patent governing custom
XML-related properties. Microsoft filed an appeal, and the
case has gone through several motions, but the U.S. Patent
and Trademark Office’s May 11 confirmation of the validity of
i4i’s patent puts Microsoft in a potentially tricky spot.
In this interview, Global Crossing’s CIO Anthony
Christie (right) tells e WEEK’s Eric Lundquist how
CIOs can learn from his experience to build a
worldwide, service-based technology infrastructure.