John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski Honored With Rare Microsoft Patent-Infringement Suit

In a January Securities and Exchange Commission filing, (CRM) listed among its risk factors “a communication from a large technology company alleging that we were infringing upon some of their patents.” The company didn’t identify the source of the communication or the extent of its allegations, only that the two were in discussions and no litigation had yet been filed.

“We continue to analyze the potential merits of their claims, the potential defenses to such claims and potential counter claims, and the possibility of a license agreement as an alternative to litigation,” the company said. “However, there can be no assurance that this claim will not lead to litigation in the future.”

Well, looks like the claim has indeed lead to litigation, and litigation from a formidable opponent, too: Microsoft (MSFT).

On Thursday, the software behemoth filed suit against Salesforce, accusing the company of infringing nine patents describing things like “Method and system for stacking toolbars in a computer display” and “System and method for controlling access to data entities in a computer network.”

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, seeks an injunction against Salesforce and unspecified monetary damages.

“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,” Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing, said in a statement. “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.”

An interesting move for Microsoft, which doesn’t typically initiate patent litigation. Though it has been sued many times for patent infringement over the years, the company has only filed a handful of IP suits itself.

That said, Microsoft and Salesforce have been competing more aggressively in the cloud-based CRM space recently. declined comment on the suit.

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— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google