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Examples of use for sabotage

Note: this has some overlap of scope with False accusations of patent infringement. I might tweak the titles of these two.

Software patents are often used as weapons to harm competitors.

Examples by specific companies


"Bruce Chizen, Adobe's boss, sued Macromedia. There was no particular reason for the lawsuit, he recalls, but he had been irked for some time that Macromedia...had appeared to be embarassing the much bigger Adobe...Mr Chizen's people found an obscure patent that Macromedia was probably infringing upon and took it to court. The idea was 'to slow them down a bit' smirks Mr. Chizen."
--The Economist, December 10th-16th 2005, p71 "Sue, kiss, marry"

(Was this Adobe's "palette" patent?)


"Confidently, we [Sun Microsystems] proclaimed our conclusion: Only one of the seven IBM patents would be deemed valid by a court, and no rational court would find that Sun's technology infringed even that one.
"An awkward silence ensued. The blue suits did not even confer among themselves. They just sat there, stonelike. Finally, the chief suit responded. "OK," he said, "maybe you don't infringe these seven patents. But we have 10,000 U.S. patents. Do you really want us to go back to Armonk [IBM headquarters in New York] and find seven patents you do infringe? Or do you want to make this easy and just pay us $20 million?
"After a modest bit of negotiation, Sun cut IBM a check, and the blue suits went to the next company on their hit list."
--Forbes, June 24th 2002, "Patently Absurd"[1]


In an email,[1] Microsoft's Bill Gates suggests using patents to make interoperability difficult for GNU/Linux:

One thing I find myself wondering about is whether we shouldn't try and make the "ACPI" extensions somehow Windows specific.

It seems unfortunate if we do this work and get our partners to do the work and the result is that Linux works great without having to do the work.

Maybe there is no way to avoid this problem but it does bother me.

Maybe we could define the APIs so that they work well with NT and not the others even if they are open.

Or maybe we could patent something related to this.


Regarding NetApp v. Sun, Nexenta CEO Evan Powell said:

"I find NetApp's behavior consistent with what typically transpires when established legacy technology companies are confronted with innovation that threatens their price structure and profit margins. They first protest that the technology is unproven and unstable, then it lacks enterprise features, then adequate support and services and finally, when all else has failed, that it is violating their intellectual property. This is the path that NetApp has taken in the last two years with the ZFS file system."[2]


Seems Yahoo has sent patent threat letters to both Facebook and Google on the eve of their public IPO's: [2]


Expert commentary

UK Lord Justice Jacob's comments

In the 2006 ruling on Aerotel v. Telco in the UK, Lord Justice Jacob commented:

"If your competitors are getting or trying to get the weapons of business method or computer program patents you must too. An arms race in which the weapons are patents has set in."

Gowers Review of Intellectual Property

The evidence suggests software patents are used strategically; that is, to prevent competitors from developing in a similar field, rather than to incentivise innovation

Related pages on ESP Wiki

External links


  2. "Open season on open-source ZFS?". "Nexenta CEO Evan Powell supplied Enterprise Storage Forum with the following statement: "I am not a patent law expert and cannot comment specifically on NetApp and Oracle's legal battle. However, I find NetApp's behavior..."