With so much focus on "cloud computing" these days, companies looking to leap into the cloud and to embrace the agility and flexibility it provides are being warned that there may be a looming problem on the horizon: patent litigation
. Seriously. As with pretty much any hot area of technology these days, there's a pretty big patent thicket around cloud computing -- even if the basic technology really isn't all that different than what's been around for ages. But, of course, that won't stop opportunistic companies from claiming their patents cover new cloud services (or of having some players in the field attack competitors with patents). But where this becomes a bigger issue is that such patent lawsuits could bleed down to customers as well, meaning that they may take on more liability than they realize just in adopting a rather useful service:
"One model of enforcing patents says I can go after the manufacturer, but once I do I'm done because then all his sales are licensed," Goldberg said. "But if I keep going after all his customers, I can keep going forever and the customer is really not in the best position to fight back. So it creates increased risk."
Yes, this sounds ridiculous, but welcome to modern patent law. This is, clearly, a problem with patent law today. There are lots of really useful and valuable cloud services that provide much greater functionality than local offerings, but beyond questions concerning "outsourcing" certain important aspects of IT, the fact that it could also make companies liable for patent infringement is a big open question. Considering the threat, we'll actually be discussing this topic a bit in our upcoming Security in the Cloud Webinar
, which is taking place Tuesday May 11th at 9am PT/noon ET.