Former Sun CEO: Tech Companies Suing Over Patents Is An Act Of Desperation

from the indeed dept

Three years ago, after one of Microsoft's regular bursts of FUD claiming that Linux violated all sorts of Microsoft patents, then CEO of Sun, Jonathan Schwartz, wrote up a brilliant post knocking Microsoft down a peg by repeating a line we've said many times here ourselves: real innovative companies innovate, not litigate. Now, following Apple's patent offensive against HTC, and unencumbered of corporate responsibilities, Schwartz is sharing a bit more detail on his views over patents (found via Mathew Ingram).

Schwartz tells the story of Steve Jobs calling him and threatening Sun with a patent infringement lawsuit, to which Schwartz quickly warned Jobs that going down that path would lead to a patent nuclear war, as he pointed out how recent Apple products likely infringed on Sun patents. He then tells another story about a visit from Bill Gates, with a similar threat over patents -- and a similar response, pointing out that Microsoft clearly copied certain Sun technology. In both cases, the counterweight made the threats go away. This is the whole "nuclear stockpiling" scenario -- and, as such, it creates a ton of waste. You have to keep building up those stockpiles just to make sure the other side is too scared to sue you.

But the key point is made after this, where Schwartz again makes a statement quite similar to ones we've made when a big tech company suddenly goes on the patent offensive. It's a canary-in-the-coalmine sign that something is wrong:
For a technology company, going on offense with software patents seems like an act of desperation, relying on the courts instead of the marketplace.
He also highlights how these lawsuits can backfire in a big, big way:
Having watched this movie play out many times, suing a competitor typically makes them more relevant, not less. Developers I know aren't getting less interested in Google's Android platform, they're getting more interested -- Apple's actions are enhancing that interest.
Indeed. It's a point that still seems missed by so many when discussing these patent lawsuits.
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Filed Under: jonathan schwartz
Companies: apple, microsoft, sun


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  1. icon
    senshikaze (profile), 10 Mar 2010 @ 1:22pm

    Re: hmmm

    the reasons for that have nothing to do with patents. frankly sun didn't have the product to push. Which is sad, because i like MySQL, OOo, (sometimes)Java, and their Solaris stuff (specifically zfs). Sun was an innovative company and it is sad to see them get gobbled up.
    But, it all comes back to lack of product. I know very few people who have actually worked on a sun box in the last ten years. Maybe the oracle acquisition is exactly what sun needs.

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