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Microsoft strikes Salesforce patent payola

Settlement riddle

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Salesforce.com is paying good money to make Microsoft's patent infringement lawsuit go away, Redmond has said.

In a strangely worded statement from Microsoft on Wednesday announcing a patent-licensing settlement with Salesforce, Microsoft has slyly said that while the contents of the companies' agreement have not been disclosed, Salesforce is paying Microsoft.

Amid the familiar and non-committal language of settlement, Microsoft slipped into the third person saying:

Microsoft indicated that it is being compensated by Salesforce.com based on the strength of Microsoft's leading patent portfolio in the areas of operating systems, cloud services and customer relationship management software.

In a further twist, Microsoft suggested the agreement under which Salesforce will license Microsoft's patents also has a limited life span. Microsoft said:

The cases have been settled through a patent agreement in which Salesforce.com will receive broad coverage under Microsoft's patent portfolio for its products and services as well as its back-end server infrastructure during the term.

No actual date for the "term" was given, and — again — the wording is unusual. Typically, such agreements come with a boilerplate statement on having reached an agreement and the strength of your patent portfolio.

Salesforce was giving nothing away. In a terse statement, the company said: "Salesforce.com is pleased to put this litigation behind us."

Microsoft in May had claimed that Salesforce had violated nine of its patents on building websites without coding, mapping between logical and physical data, remote software calls, the placement of objects on a screen, and control of the display.

Typically, Microsoft said it sought trial, damages, and costs. In reality, what it was probably after was for Salesforce to license its patents to provide a source of future income on a permanent basis.

Going to trial likely meant there was a breakdown somewhere in the process after Microsoft initially contacted Salesforce over some kind of patent-licensing payment.

Salesforce shot back at Microsoft by filing its own legal action claiming parts of Windows Azure and Windows 7 violate five of its patents. Salesforce also hired the law firm of David Boies to defend against Microsoft. Boies got his claws into Microsoft in the late 1990s and early 2000s by representing the US Department of Justice in its successful prosecution of the software giant over violation of the US antitrust law. ®

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