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Microsoft hit with Salesforce patent 'violation' counter punch

Windows 7, Hotmail, SkyDrive, .NET...

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Salesforce.com has fired back at Microsoft, claiming parts of Redmond's cloud and Windows 7 violate its intellectual property.

Microsoft has trampled five Salesforce patents, the company claimed, with the Windows Server AppFabric for installing and provisioning apps on Azure; Windows Live Services including Hotmail and SkyDrive storage; .NET; Windows 7; Server 2008 R2; and SharePoint products and technologies.

In a US court filing, Salesforce claims Microsoft willfully violated the company's patents by incorporating them into its online services and products. The patents cover dynamic multi-level cache, a method for provisioning services, Java object cache server for databases, error reporting and work sharing, and communication with a web site.

Salesforce is not just asking that Microsoft be forced to pay three times the normal damages because it willfully infringed the patents. Salesforce also wants an injunction that stops Microsoft from using the patents. You can read the filing here.

Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel for intellectual property and licensing at Microsoft, said in a statement that Microsoft is reviewing the Salesforce filing, but remained confident and would press ahead with its original complaint.

Salesforce's action is a counter response to Microsoft, after the software giant filed a legal action claiming Salesforce's service violated nine Microsoft patents.

The legal retort follows Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff's immediate response, in which he branded Microsoft a patent troll and likening it to an "alley thug".

The action means Microsoft will again face its antitrust foe Davie Boies, who lead the US government's case against the software giant in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Boies's company, Boies, Schiller and Flexner, went on to represent community pariah SCO Group, claiming IBM had illegally distributed intellectual property it claimed it owned with Unix as part of Linux.

In an early sign that the case was not going well – and that this would be a long haul – Boies's firm agreed to cap their legal fees and accept $1m in cash and 400,000 in SCO stock in 2004. That stock is now virtually worthless at $0.04 a share. Boies, meanwhile, admitted last year that he lost so much money fighting the case that he's "way in to the red" on SCO.

Hopefully, Microsoft versus Salesforce doesn't drag on so long – for all concerned.®

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