Saturday, May 29, 2010

Microsoft vs Salesforce vs the World

What do you know?

Microsoft seems to be scared of Salesforce and is going after them
with a battery of patents

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this lawsuit is that Microsoft is using one of the patents that they acquired from Silicon Graphics. Microsoft bought SGI patents in three batches, the first batch in 1995, the second in 2001 and the third as part of Silicon Graphics attempt to stay in business a year before they were bought by Rackable.

The lawsuit against Salesforce includes the Ajax patent for menus on the client side. Ironic because Microsoft is the inventor of the technology that became known as Ajax, and yet, they resorted to an older patent that covers some areas of client-side scripting on the browser.

Some of these patents are from the mid-90s, remember that the patent
system changed on June 6th of 1995. Patents filed before this date
could be milked for seventeen years, patents filed after this date can be milked for twenty years.

Here are the patents:

7,251,653: The Pivot Table and "views" patent.

5,742,768: This is the Silicon Graphics "Ajax" patent. Potentially Microsoft can go after anyone that has any sort of dynamic content on a web page, or at least those that offer a list of options without going back to the server for more information.

The challenge with this patent will be to find HTML-based
client-side menus before July 16th of 1996.

5,644,737: This is a nasty one as it covers the stackable toolbars, we have all grown used to having stackable toolbars (and curiously, Microsoft Office just moved away from stackable toolbars to a large static toolbar).

Even if this is used against Salesforce, this is a problem for desktop applications: Openoffice, Kde and Gnome in the Linux world are affected, and pretty much every desktop application on Windows.

The challenge date: June 6th of 1995.

6.263,352: It should not be hard to find evidence that CGI scripts were using either bourne shell interpolation or Perl interpolation to create the stylesheets that this patent is making a reference to.

The patent was filed in November 27th of 1995, and the WWW-Talk mailing list had discussions about the CGI interface going back to 1993. We need to find any sort of Perl script from 1995 that would show the use of templates for generating HTML output.

Something tells me that Salesforce is hiring software veterans to track these down now.

5,845,077: Distribution of Software Updates. This one is so broad that it goes beyond Salesforce's own problems. This patent was filed in November of 1995 and affects anyone doing network-based software updates.

In the Linux world, this affects every Linux distribution that ever had an updating software system or software installation catalog. But it also affects and Windows programs that phone home to get patches, updates or new functionality.

6,122,558: From the bouquet of patents this deserves some award for being impossible for Microsoft to prove and for falling in the "who gives a fuck" category.

The patent discusses using schemas in control panels.

6,542,164 and 6,281,879: Microsoft patents the timeout on tooltips, a possible workaround this patent is to not compute acceleration as the invention only relates to acceleration being taken into account while the cursor is moving. It could be argued that no motion means also zero acceleration.

This patent is not patenting functionality itself, but usability. A disgusting trend, because it is not really adding functionality or seems like a big invention. This is a patent that was granted for ergonomics.

The patent date: June 12 of 2001.

5,941,947: Nasty patent that covers Access Control Lists over the network. This means anyone that implements a distributed login/password system is probably infringing.

The patent date: August 18th, 1995. This is helpful because there were various distributed login/password systems that predate the patent (Sun's NIS) and will weaken many of the claims.

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