Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Microsoft Patents Your Rights Online

Microsoft Sues Salesforce.com Over Patents 243

WrongSizeGlass writes "CNET is reporting that Microsoft is suing Salesforce.com in Seattle federal court, claiming it infringes on nine patents. Two of the patents in question are a 'system and method for providing and displaying a Web page having an embedded menu' and a 'method and system for stacking toolbars in a computer display.'" Microsoft says it first notified Salesforce more than a year ago about the alleged infringement.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Microsoft Sues Salesforce.com Over Patents

Comments Filter:
  • by RobertM1968 ( 951074 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @11:46PM (#32260794) Homepage Journal

    One angle I could see on this: Sure, everyone might want to make their webpages look this way. But if you rip off the exact code MS is using, change some variables, and get caught, well hey, looky here, we patented that beyotch.

    Just a vague idea though.

    Nah, that would be copyright infringement.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @11:53PM (#32260850)

    Theoretically yes, look up "work product." Depending on how rigid the old company is you can just write it into the contract that you retain copyright of your scripts and they have perpetual and derivative use in any context, or vice-versa, or however you want to structure it.

    As a practical matter, it's probably unlikely to come up due to the cost of a lawsuit. (Unless they're really valuable scripts or there's a lot of personal animosity.) Plus they have to find out about it.

    There are also issues as to whether the new company will get sued, or just you. Either of you can, of course, but who winds up having to pay is a different question, which probably depends in part on whether the new company knows (or is willfully avoiding knowledge of, etc...) it is infringing, etc...

    There are also a number of complexities you'd look into. Injunctions, whether any of these jobs are independent contractor jobs, etc...

    Note that the case in the story is about patents, not copyrights. Also, none of this is reliable, but is an off-the-top-of-the-head thought. IANAL.

  • by Grond ( 15515 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @11:58PM (#32260882) Homepage

    Once again a Slashdot patent story is posted with reference to the titles of the patents. Patent titles are legally meaningless. The patentee doesn't even have to supply one; the Patent Office will write one for you if you leave it out. What matters are the claims read in light of the specification.

    Anyway, from the complaint, the patents in question are:
    7,251,653 [google.com]
    5,742,768 [google.com]
    5,644,737 [google.com]
    6,263,352 [google.com]
    6,122,558 [uspto.gov]
    6,542,164 [google.com]
    6,281,879 [uspto.gov]
    5,845,077 [google.com] (the leading 5 was left off in the complaint, but this is the right patent)
    5,941,947 [google.com]

    The '768 patent was originally assigned to Silicon Graphics. It was one of several SGI patents assigned to Microsoft in 2002 as part of a $62.5 million deal [theregister.co.uk].

    Some of the patents are related. The '164 patent, for example, was the result of a continuation application based on the application that eventually became the '879 patent.

    Anyone looking at these from a prior art perspective should bear in mind that the patents have quite early priority dates. Most of them seem to date from the mid-90s. The '164 and '879 patents, for example, stretch back to June 16, 1994.

  • Some of the patents do have claims are more specific than the titles would lead you to suspect, but some of them actually aren't much more specific. The '077 patent, for example, is literally patenting the following: generate a list of installed software, send it to a remote server, the remote server checks for updates, and sends back notification of available updates to installed software, with a description of the problems those updates fix. Essentially, any update scheme that checks on the server side (fortunately, this means something like Debian's 'aptitude' is not covered, since it compares the list of available updates to the list of installed software on the client side). Is the idea of asking for a list of updates to a list of installed software really non-obvious, even in 1995?

    For reference, this is Claim 1 in its entirety:

    In a computer system having a first computer in communication with a remote second computer, the second computer having access to a database identifying software remotely available to the first computer, wherein at least one item in the database identifies software installable on the first computer, a computer implemented method for identifying computer software available for installation on the first computer, the method comprising, at the second computer:

    retrieving from the first computer to the second computer an inventory identifying at least certain computer software installed on the first computer;

    comparing the inventory of computer software with the database to identify computer software available to the first computer and not installed on the first computer;

    preparing for presentation at the first computer software information indicating software available to the first computer and not installed on the first computer; and

    sending the software information to the first computer, said information including an alert about a defect in software on the first computer correctable by software available to the first computer and not installed thereon.

  • Re:Bill Gates (Score:5, Informative)

    by man_of_mr_e ( 217855 ) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @02:00AM (#32261470)

    Microsoft sued TomTom over a range of patents, one of which was the FAT patent. It wasn't specifically about the FAT patent, and in reality, TomTom had threatened MS with patent suits first. Microsoft responded to the threats by actually filing a suit, effectively calling their bluff when they settled so fast after a feeble attempt to modify their original threatened suit to be a counter-suit. TomTom was no saint and had sued a half dozen other companies previously after shakedown attempts. They chose the wrong victim when they went after Microsoft.

    This is, to my mind, the first time Microsoft has ever filed a truly offensive (as in offense, not offending) patent lawsuit. I have to think there's more to the story here than meets the eye. Microsoft is seeking injunctive relief, not damages. As such, they're not using this as a revenue model.

  • by RobertM1968 ( 951074 ) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @02:46AM (#32261688) Homepage Journal

    I proved you wrong on a bunch of these above... but let's go at it again.

    The Ribbon

    Already covered in my last post - done better by others before. Or do you think the fact that they call it "The Ribbon" is the innovation part of mangling an idea others already had?


    They funded a University of Washington project which became a MS Live Labs project. Their other related "innovations" were acquired by a company called SeaDragon and various others. So, even the ones that are innovative werent innovated by Microsoft.

    COM (originally OLE)

    Covered above... Xerox Star (and others) and for COM implementation (ie: more than just OLE), it was to catch up with IBM and OS/2, the Mac and numerous other non-PC based implementations.

    Internet Explorer Protected Mode

    Even if they were first, it doesnt count because it would actually have to work first. And there are already exploits that can bypass IE in protected mode on operating systems (Vista onwards) that support it. That aside, various programs did this far better than Microsoft's implementation before Microsoft licensed various technologies for it and wrote the rest. One such is a package from a big software firewall company (I'll give you a hint...ZA). That aside, Chrome manages it better than IE and Vista/Win7 - even without all the added work that Microsoft did to Windows itself to enable this feature in IE.

    So... where were we? Oh yeah... I remember. Microsoft MAY have innovated something, but you cant think of anything. Well, here's one. Edlin.

  • by RobertM1968 ( 951074 ) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @03:31AM (#32261894) Homepage Journal

    (wow, that's innovation... someone else's idea - with a piece of clipart)

    You show a fundamental lack of knowledge of what you're actually talking about. Assistants weren't simply animated ways to access help text, they could actually analyze what you're doing and supply recommendations. That was innovative. Annoying, but innovative.

    You glossed over the "not the first to do it, just the first to use a piece of clipart" part (paraphased)

    Which still confuses users of older versions of Office to this day

    What part of "Whether you like the idea or not" don't you understand? You or anyone else liking the idea has no bearing on its novelty.

    You don't do your argument any justice by making fallacial comments like this.

    You skipped the (again paraphrased) "others did it ages before that by selectively hiding toolbars that did or did not apply to the task at hand" part.

    which was an idea long since in existence in the Xerox Star systems

    The star had document embedding, but it wasn't live document embedding. You couldn't edit documents in place, and you couldn't update the document elsewhere and have it be updated in the embedded document.

    Don't confuse "Someone once did something kind of like that" with lack of novelty. It's not just the base concept, it's the entire concept.

    Hmmm... sites that seem to have put far more research into the Xerox Star systems disagree.

    8 years after Spellbound came out

    That's interesting, sicne I can find no reference to any word processor called Spellbound...

    Hmmm... have you tried Google? If so, you just didnt dig far enough. It was released by Sector Software in 1987.

    And the only reference to a spell checker is the firefox extension, which certainly did not come out 8 years before Word 95.

    I'm also suspect of your IBM reference, given that you seem to conflate way too many concepts to believe your arguments. Do you have a reference?

    I could just drop a lot of references, but as you've apparently intentionally skipped the important parts of points I have made (as in the first two), why should I bother? Nonetheless, I did give you a few more hints above.

    Sure, I am sure Microsoft innovated something... the KIN being one possibly (never seen more than the commercials and a few online reviews, so I am not sure about that one, but it seems a pretty innovative way of integrating many smartphone and other electronic device features in a novel way)... but the stuff you mention does not fit the category. Nor is the "first 32bit PC operating system" claim Microsoft used to make for Windows 95. Or "their" creation of an improved interface for Windows XP (and 95)... oh wait, they licensed that from SDS. Stop believing marketing hype and actually research what you talk about.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @04:02AM (#32262056)

    When have either of the two been well behaved? I must have missed that bit.

  • by man_of_mr_e ( 217855 ) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @04:17AM (#32262156)

    The only word processor Corel had was WordPerfect, and it did NOT do what the Ribbon does. The fact that you can't actually point out any specific thing, just vague hand waving is evidence enough that you're talking out of your ass.

    Regarding COM, you seem to be confusing when a product shipped with when it was created. OS/2 2.0 and OS/2 1.3 were done by IBM yes, and COM was released as a product in 1993 (OLE 2 in 1992), but the actual technology was created by Microsoft in 1987, with white papers written in 1998 and 1990.

    COM was not originally a product, but was the basis of OLE 2. It existed for several years before OLE did, and the basic concepts were drawn from whitepapers by Antony Williams in 1998 and 1990.

    All of this predated OS/2 2.0 by a great deal, and while betas of OS/2 2.0 were in existence in 1990, the workplace shell and SOM were not.

    WPS didn't even appear in betas until sometime around late 1991 (after Windows 3.1 and OLE 2 betas were already shipping)

    It's relatively easy to know this because SOM is based on CORBA, and COM and CORBA came out about the same time. CORBA was an RPC based technology while COM was a function dispatch based technology. COM and CORBA came at the same problem from opposite sides, and eventually met in the middle with CORBA moving from distributed objects towards component objects and COM moving from component to distributed.

    I point you to this article:

    http://www.wincustomize.com/article/81265 [wincustomize.com]

    In which, it says quite clearly that the reason for OS/2's delay from late 1991 to 1993 was WPS.

    This message seems to indicate the first beta that included PWS was late 1991.

    http://www.rusbasan.com/Humor/OS2_Dream.html [rusbasan.com]

    This infoworld article from July 1991 [google.com] says that it didn't exist in the beta.

  • by jitterbug ( 38915 ) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @04:39AM (#32262262)


    It's interesting that you bring up the "Ribbon" as there is prior art for it [geniisoft.com], yet Microsoft is trying for a patentland grab [wordpress.com] on a relativity [wikipedia.org] common User Interface concept.

  • by IgnoramusMaximus ( 692000 ) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @05:34AM (#32262520)

    rsync does all that and more. In one of its modes, it takes a list of files and compares it against another on a server and then sends down "updated" (i.e. "newer versions") of files down to the client. The files can be programs and the versions can be simply dates of change or MD5 hashes or what not. The precise version tracking mechanism (of which there are literally an infinite number) is irrelevant.

    Microsoft's update uses a small portion of that functionality, with a specific version tracking method. Rsync is far more universal and extensible (nearly any conceivable versioning method can be added to it in addition to the powerful built in ones) and thus a super-set of the Microsoft's "innovation".

    On top of that rsync uses a sophisticated comparison mechanism designed to deal with hundreds of thousands of files, in contrast to the pitiful, horrendously inefficient and slow Microsoft update method that has hard times with a few hundreds of Windows DLLs, not to mention that rsync is capable of many modes of operation, such as bi-directional and on local file-systems.

    There are of course other schemes, such as the RedHat Package Management or Debian's "apt-get/dpkg" systems which are designed to provide different (and far superior to the Microsoft's kludge "invention") functionality specifically designed to provide database functionality to program management (i.e. keeping track of each individual file in the system and a multitude of interdependencies of programs and their libraries) but they go far, far beyond the scope of the mundane, innovation repellent intellectual mediocrity that is Microsoft "update".

  • Re:Rage inducing (Score:2, Informative)

    by Bysshe ( 1330263 ) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @07:56AM (#32263212)
    You probably can in Japan.
  • by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @08:35AM (#32263514)

    "Saying it does not prove it. Show me the prior art."

    Borland Delphi - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Borland_Delphi_4_screenshot.png [wikipedia.org]

    "Are you fucking kidding me? OS/2 was created by Microsoft and IBM together."

    COM (circa 1987) is not new as well - it was just a standard on vtable format, nothing more. There was _no_ OLE in 1987, not even close. One of the first usages of COM, in fact, was MAPI.

    OLE and IDispatch came much later, in 1992 developed mainly for office automation. And by that time they were nothing new as well. For example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amoeba_distributed_operating_system [wikipedia.org] had not just dynamically accessible objects, but _distributed_ dynamically accessible objects.

    So sorry, your examples of innovation are stupid.

  • by RickRussellTX ( 755670 ) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @08:45AM (#32263636)

    Prior art:

    http://graphicssoft.about.com/od/photoshop/ig/20-Years-of-Photoshop/Photoshop-Elements-1-0-2001.htm [about.com]

    Button and menu controls on the palettes, tabs to switch between control palettes, all of it. Just 'cause the Ribbon is blue doesn't make it new.

  • Re:What's the angle? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anarchitektur ( 1089141 ) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @02:17PM (#32267872)
    I am a CRM consultant; I work mostly with Dynamics CRM, but I know Salesforce.com pretty well also. Some of what you said is true, some isn't.

    In Salesforce's favor, they are indeed more flexible, and they have a lot of features out of the box that Dynamics just doesn't have, or require customization to accomplish. Stuff that should be a no-brainer for a CRM system (such as dashboards) are strangely absent from Microsoft's solution (aside from some a measly recent addition to their hosted version), and 3rd party solutions or custom development is the only way you're going to get a dashboard in Dynamics. The out of the box workflow capabilities in Dynamics, though, are far superior to what Salesforce has. It also gives companies the option of going on-premise or cloud, which is important to some companies to have their data in-house. The integration between CRM and Outlook is also in Microsoft's favor, as they damn well should be, since they are both their own products.

    All that said, though, Dynamics rarely competes in a "feature" war... the primary selling point for Dynamics is that a lot of their customers are already Microsoft shops, so if they don't already get the product for FREE with some kind of Enterprise licensing agreement, a lot of them still view it as a plus to stick with one vendor. Another big point is that integration with Microsoft's ERP system, GP, is relatively straightforward... a lot of my clients are companies that already had GP, and wanted a CRM for their sales team.

    I've helped unhappy Salesforce customers migrate to Dynamics, and I've helped unhappy Dynamics customers migrate to Salesforce. The perception and attitude of the user's is far more a contributing factor to a CRM implementation's success than the actual product itself. It is uncool that Microsoft is having to resort to this kind of bullshittery to try to throw off SF's game, but I'm going to go ahead and tell you that you're dead wrong that Microsoft is going to try to purchase Salesforce. You may not be aware of this, but Microsoft only started developing CRM once Siebel turned down their offer to buy them out. I can guarantee you than any such offer to Salesforce would similarly get turned down.

"An organization dries up if you don't challenge it with growth." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments