Microsoft Decides It Can't Compete With Salesforce.com; Sues For Patent Infringement Instead

from the must-we-remind-you dept

Remember back when Bill Gates said:
"If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today... A future start-up with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose."
Those days are long gone, apparently. In its latest patent litigation action, Microsoft has decided to sue Salesforce.com for infringing on a bunch of patents. Basically, it looks like Microsoft went through its collection of patents to find whatever they could that Salesforce might possibly infringe on. Take a look at the list:
  • 7,251,653: Method and system for mapping between logical data and physical data
  • 5,742,768: System and method for providing and displaying a web page having an embedded menu
  • 5,644,737: Method and system for stacking toolbars in a computer display
  • 6,263,352: Automated web site creation using template driven generation of active server page applications
  • 6,542,164: Timing and velocity control for displaying graphical information
  • 6,281,879: Timing and velocity control for displaying graphical information (the 164 patent above looks to just be a continuation of this patent)
  • 5,845,077: Method and system for identifying and obtaining computer software from a remote computer
  • 5,941,947: System and method for controlling access to data entities in a computer network
Amusingly, Microsoft and its super expensive lawyers were apparently in such a rush to file the lawsuit that they put the wrong patent number in on that second to last patent in the filing. Oops. Either way, look over that list of patents and try not to repeatedly shake your head in disbelief at the ridiculously broad nature of each and every one of those patents. And, then, since patent system defenders always remind us that it's the claims that matter, go take a look at the claims and wonder how these patents ever got approved in the first place. Going through that list of patents, you could use them to sue an awful lot of web-based service providers.

Hopefully (though, unlikely), the Supreme Court gets around to issuing its Bilski ruling and puts software patents like these out of their misery. Here's the full filing for anyone interested:


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    crade (profile), May 19th, 2010 @ 8:13am

    The claims that matter? Why would anyone think that? Aren't you supposed to ensure that you don't violate any new patents when you build a new project?

    Some startup projects I was following in the design stages had a bunch of simple ideas that were rejected upon review because they were patented by such overly broad patents.

    Overly broad patents can surely do damage without any lawsuit required.

     

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      Willton, May 19th, 2010 @ 11:03am

      Re:

      Overly broad patents can surely do damage without any lawsuit required.

      Well, sure, but that presumes that the patents are overly broad. How are the MS patents overly broad?

       

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        Sneeje (profile), May 19th, 2010 @ 1:39pm

        Re: Re:

        Well, let's take the first one for example. Methods and systems for logical to physical data mapping is something that has existed since data and software development lifecycles have existed. Nearly all ERP systems employ this to some degree and those have been around since long before 1998, and most custom development would call this "abstraction".

         

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          Willton, May 19th, 2010 @ 4:16pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Well, let's take the first one for example. Methods and systems for logical to physical data mapping is something that has existed since data and software development lifecycles have existed. Nearly all ERP systems employ this to some degree and those have been around since long before 1998, and most custom development would call this "abstraction".

          That's not helpful. You're quoting the title, which has no legal force. The breadth of a patent's property right is determined by its broadest claim, which is usually Claim 1. So read the claim below and tell me how it is overly broad. And please keep in mind that it has a priority date of June 30, 2004.

          Here's Claim 1:
          1. A method in a computer system for providing a view of data, the method comprising:


          providing physical data having standard and custom data, the standard data having entries with data for standard fields, the custom data having data for custom fields, the custom fields being represented by pivot data;

          providing a map between standard and custom fields and logical fields of logical data;

          providing a result set containing physical data from a standard field and a custom field;

          organizing the physical data of the result set into logical data using the provided map; and

          storing the organized logical data as the view.

           

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            Sneeje (profile), May 19th, 2010 @ 4:27pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Yes, I read the whole claim before posting. What they have described is a process I used building data warehouses for companies in the mid 90s. And the process is overly broad because it describes a process used by nearly every single software development effort that includes data.

            I realize it would be hard for someone to understand that doesn't do this for a living. The basic waterfall lifecycle expects logical design to occur before physical design. The logical design includes the specification of data elements in a manner that is understandable from a business perspective. The physical design takes the specific technology into account, by de-normalizing where appropriate and creating other physical elements. The physical design must be mapped back to the logical design, especially in instances where a COTS product pre-specifies the target data store.

            As I said, ERP systems expose logical data elements with which business users interact that is independent of how the data is stored, and a mapping is created and maintained.

             

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            TtfnJohn (profile), May 20th, 2010 @ 6:08pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            In point of fact data abstraction has been used and developed for since the first digital computers in the 1940s were made to aim and fire field guns.
            It was certainly used in the first billing system computers IBM sold in the 1950s.
            Long before GUIs and Gates started to, ahhhh, borrow BASIC and call it his own.

             

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    Les, May 19th, 2010 @ 8:13am

    Do you mean look at how broad the titles are?

    "look over that list of patents and try not to repeatedly shake your head in disbelief at the ridiculously broad nature of each and every one of those patents"

    You can't judge the breadth of a patent by its title. Why not post the allegedly ridiculously broad claims instead?

     

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    senshikaze (profile), May 19th, 2010 @ 8:20am

    so.....
    yea. another reason i don't use their products: they can't actually innovate.

     

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    Marcel de Jong (profile), May 19th, 2010 @ 8:33am

    Ah the good old, if you can't compete, nor innovate, litigate.

     

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      les, May 19th, 2010 @ 10:09am

      Innovating, patenting and if need be suing is PART of competing, not an alternative to competing.

       

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        Mike Masnick (profile), May 19th, 2010 @ 10:48am

        Re:

        Innovating, patenting and if need be suing is PART of competing, not an alternative to competing.

        Not quite. Suing over patents is an attempt to use a gov't granted monopoly to stop competition.

         

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          IGF1, May 19th, 2010 @ 11:03pm

          Re: Re:

          Considering MS has been declaired an illegal monopoly, but given a slap on the wrist once Bush took office. He made their problems go away. They still threaten their market, now that they have unleashed their inner patent troll... all bets are off.

           

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        Sneeje (profile), May 19th, 2010 @ 1:41pm

        Re:

        Not by any definition I learned in business school. Competing based on what? Competition involves trying to serve some market dimension better than everyone else.

         

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    John Doe, May 19th, 2010 @ 8:37am

    The state of patents is truly sad...

    I am sure every website and software package on the planet violates one or more patents with everything they do. I don't mean one or more per site/package, I mean one or more for every feature! There is no use even looking up patents as you would not even create a new site or software package if you did. It is better to just do it and hope to never get sued or have the money to defend yourself or pay off the patent holder.

     

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    tk01, May 19th, 2010 @ 9:16am

    the title makes me sad...

    the title of this post is totally irrelavent.

     

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    NAMELESS ONE, May 19th, 2010 @ 9:18am

    Cause we know no one would ever think a this stuff

    Cause we know no one would ever think a this stuff, right mister gates and mister ballmer?

    AND vagueness and all the suits going on are going to destroy whats left of the IT industry in the USA.

    SO DOOOOOO IT
    go crazy sue sue sue waste all the money in th euniverse on vagueness

     

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    lux (profile), May 19th, 2010 @ 9:45am

    "Remember back when Bill Gates said......Those days are long gone, apparently."

    Apparently, considering Gates hasn't run any day-to-day operations in over 2 years.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), May 19th, 2010 @ 10:03am

      Re:

      Apparently, considering Gates hasn't run any day-to-day operations in over 2 years.


      Wasn't referring to *him* running operations, obviously. But the general sentiment from Microsoft. Sorry if that wasn't clear.

       

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    Hephaestus (profile), May 19th, 2010 @ 10:08am

    The patents ....

    With those patents shouldnt they also be suing anyone creating MMO's?

     

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    Karl (profile), May 19th, 2010 @ 10:53am

    ASP

    6,263,352: Automated web site creation using template driven generation of active server page applications

    According to this patent, just about everyone using ASP is infringing.

    Kind of defeats the purpose, doesn't it? Who is going to use ASP to set up an online store, knowing that they will get sued by Microsoft for patent infringement?

     

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      Willton, May 19th, 2010 @ 10:59am

      Re: ASP

      Kind of defeats the purpose, doesn't it? Who is going to use ASP to set up an online store, knowing that they will get sued by Microsoft for patent infringement?

      Perhaps someone who's willing to pay a license fee?

       

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    Almost Anonymous (profile), May 19th, 2010 @ 11:05am

    BIG Problem

    I've got a big problem with 5 of those patents listed. Any patent that starts out with "system and method" or "method and system" (or other words to that effect) should be thrown out immediately. They are TOO DAMN VAGUE.

    I'm just waiting to see the patent for "System and method for showing stuff on the interweb."

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), May 19th, 2010 @ 11:20am

      Re: BIG Problem

      I've got a big problem with 5 of those patents listed. Any patent that starts out with "system and method" or "method and system" (or other words to that effect) should be thrown out immediately. They are TOO DAMN VAGUE.

      To be fair, that's standard patent language and is somewhat meaningless in the title of the patent. It does, in fact, come down to what is that system and method (or method and system) which is supposed to be in the claims (though, often those are too damn vague as well...)

       

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        Almost Anonymous (profile), May 19th, 2010 @ 11:46am

        Re: Re: BIG Problem

        I suppose it just comes down to my disgust of software patents in general. The whole "sytem and method" verbology smacks of a wide net to capture all ways of doing Task A. If this company accomplishes Task A using their own algorithm written in C++, and another company writes their answer to Task A in Python, ONE patent should not be able to cover both situations. In fact, the patent shouldn't even exist, it's a ludicrous situation.

         

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      Rik Wessels, May 20th, 2010 @ 1:43am

      Re: BIG Problem

      You can try and apply for the patent ( if the exact same phrase isn't already filed at patent office ,chances are it would even be accepted !) .

       

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    NAMELESS.ONE, May 19th, 2010 @ 11:20am

    @11 yes they shuld be suing MMO's

    PROB there is there is massive prior art in the form of ancient and old C and C++ code called MUDS.
    they seemlessly ran on unix and linux and you needed to add code in the early days to make them run on windows in dos mode

    now think about RPG's in the sense of vagueness and YOU a DM , and a few people OR even a solo adventure, could some of these patents run afoul of 1970's rpg's themselves?

    I mean like ya so vague you can just laugh the good thing of this is hopefully they get whacked away and maybe if they keep suing we can clear out the BAD( SEE A USE FOR CAPS YET) patents that exist or they won't try ones they know are too vague.

     

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    NAMELESS.ONE, May 19th, 2010 @ 11:31am

    Just a quick read fo the titles and heres what i see

    7,251,653: Method and system for mapping between logical data and physical data
    - could this be a dungeon map and the data that makes it so?
    who knows its too vague to know what is the logical and what the data is to be

    5,742,768: System and method for providing and displaying a web page having an embedded menu
    - this could be the output of web.c if you ever modified your own to output the user name and some data on the players in a MUD, later web page based games do this all time and such

    6,263,352: Automated web site creation using template driven generation of active server page applications
    WEB.c of the MUDS does just this using a template to put certain data in a logical format and out to a webpage

    6,542,164: Timing and velocity control for displaying graphical information
    WEIRD one this is isn't time a kernal function and also somehting no one can copyright/patent as it has in fact according to physicists of M-Theory even existed before creation of the universe. NOW back to mud code well a certain amount a time goes buy and hte page is auto updated and the update page is generated and dropped into a web page area for viewing. MOST admins added avatars and such for each person or certain parts of that and the web page it self is a graphical representation as is anything displayed to you.

    5,845,077: Method and system for identifying and obtaining computer software from a remote computer

    haha sounds a lot like early remote bots and also like INTERMUD an addon for most types a circlemud and other muds like smaug where you can have remote servers talk to each other and thus create less loads and make even more diverse and larger worlds.

    * 5,941,947: System and method for controlling access to data entities in a computer network
    - is htis a database patent like the mother of database patents OR a login system?
    UGH so vague who knows

     

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    NAMELESS.ONE, May 19th, 2010 @ 11:41am

    "Agreggation of system settings into objects"

    this is definitely too broad

    things like functions in the core languages that allow for time settings and other core implements are just UN PATENTABLE

    they already exist and have and will long after MS does.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2010 @ 11:56am

    @NAMELESS.ONE

    It's not entirely clear to me that you read the patents in addition to reading their titles.

     

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    NAMELESS ONE, May 19th, 2010 @ 3:58pm

    @24 @27 HI TAM HOPE YOU ENJOY THE CAPS

    i read as many did the titles which is what 99.9% of patent searches would do.

    I am human and read English properly. i could just as easily say you did not read a thing i said and in my case at least i can verify it by the facts of what i wrote, versus what you did. IF you take the title and in most of the cases the summary of the patents at face values as YOU should this is the determination i come and get to.

     

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      Willton, May 19th, 2010 @ 4:22pm

      Re: @24 @27 HI TAM HOPE YOU ENJOY THE CAPS

      i read as many did the titles which is what 99.9% of patent searches would do.

      Something tells me that you've never actually done a patent search. Otherwise you would not spew such nonsense.

      I am human and read English properly. i could just as easily say you did not read a thing i said and in my case at least i can verify it by the facts of what i wrote, versus what you did. IF you take the title and in most of the cases the summary of the patents at face values as YOU should this is the determination i come and get to.

      Did you read the claims? Because that's where a patent gets its legal force. If all you read were the titles and abstracts, then you clearly do not know what the patents legally cover.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2010 @ 12:04pm

        Re: Re: @24 @27 HI TAM HOPE YOU ENJOY THE CAPS

        I've noticed that all you've added to this thread is griping about how you think no one else reads or understands the patents (and of course, you do), in spite of evidence to the contrary. I also see no useful rebuttal to any of those that have provided significant explanations in response to your requests for how the patents actually are too broad. Silence is golden.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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