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Microsoft Sues Salesforce, Alleging Patent Violations

Microsoft filed a lawsuit against rival software-as-a-service company Salesforce.com, alleging nine patent infringements.

Microsoft's lawsuit lists nine of its U.S. patents, covering broad invention concepts. The complaint, filed on Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, can be accessed here (PDF download).

Salesforce.com offers customer relationship management (CRM) software via its Force.com platform, providing sales and contact management software to organizations over the Internet via its server farms. The company competes directly with Microsoft, which offers the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online service, as well as a customer premises-based version of the product.

While the two companies compete in the CRM market, Microsoft's complaint is more general. The patents alleged to have been infringed cover such concepts as user interface controls, timing controls for graphically displayed information, data mapping, Web site creation using Active Server Pages-based applications and remote computer access.

Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of intellectual property and licensing, pointed to Salesforce.com's CRM product as the culprit while citing more general intellectual property (IP) claims.

"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," Gutierrez said in a released 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."

A spokesperson for Salesforce.com stated on Wednesday that the company had no comment on Microsoft's lawsuit.

Microsoft typically strives to settle IP matters out of court rather than sue, according to Roger Kay, president and founder of market analyst firm Endpoint Technology Associates, commenting on Microsoft's recent settlement with mobile device maker HTC. At the time of the HTC settlement, Guitierrez commented that patent battles in the mobile space are shifting more toward general functionality and away from the earlier IP battles over radio technologies.

Another notable legal action by Microsoft in the mobile space also had nothing to do with radio patents. Microsoft settled with GPS mobile device maker TomTom in late March 2009 over its old File Allocation Table technology.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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