Notable Tech Law Suits of 2010

For better or for worse, the technology industry can sometimes be a highly litigious place, where corporate legal challenges often arise. Perhaps the most common area of dispute in the tech industry concerns allegations of patent infringement and other intellectual property transgressions, though those are hardly the only challenges.

Throughout 2010, multiple vendors faced legal challenges big and small. Two vendors in particular, Oracle and Microsoft, were particularly busy during 2010, as patent, royalty and other legal skirmishes challenged both vendors.

Paul Allen Sues 11 Vendors

One of the notable legal challenges in the tech industry during 2010 was Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s patent-infringement lawsuit against major technology vendors including, Apple, Facebook and Google. Allen’s company, Interval Licensing, is asserting patents related to Web browsing, content and ecommerce.

Microsoft vs. Motorola

In another patent campaign, Microsoft’s lawyers have been busy filing legal briefs against mobile hardware vendor Motorola. Microsoft filed suit against Motorola in November over an alleged breach-of-contract related to the licensing terms of the disputed patents.

Microsoft and Motorola are also engaged in a legal spat over alleged patent infringement with Motorola’s use of Android. Microsoft alleges that Motorola’s use of Android technology infringes on nine of its patents.

Microsoft vs.

Perhaps there is something about the number nine. In May, Microsoft filed an infringement lawsuit against Salesforce, asserted that same number of patents covering website display and data mapping technologies.

Microsoft on the Defense

Microsoft was also on the receiving end of intellectual property lawsuits in 2010. In March, the company was again in a legal struggle with a company called VirnetX in an infringement case concerning Windows 7 and Windows Server 8.

Microsoft also kept its legal counsel busy during 2010 with appeals of a 2007 patent lawsuit with software vendor i4i. The case involves Microsoft’s use of a custom XML editor in Office 2003 and 2007. Though Microsoft lost a July court decision, the case is now headed to the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal.

Oracle vs. Google

Oracle’s legal counsel also kept busy during 2010. In August, Oracle took aim at Google for alleged infringement of its Java patents. Google uses Java as part of its Android mobile operating system.

Oracle vs. HP

Oracle and HP have long been business partners, but during 2010 they also became adversaries as well. The issue concerned former HP CEO Mark Hurd, and his flight to Oracle after his summary dismissal from the computing giant. The lawsuit was settled in September, ultimately stripping Hurd of millions of dollars in HP stock options.

Oracle vs. SAP

HP’s legal entanglements with Oracle also relate to Oracle’s lawsuit against SAP. Those companies have been involved in a multi-year dispute involving TomorrowNow, a former SAP subsidiary. In November, SAP made an offer of $120 million to Oracle to settle the case. HP’s involvement relates to its new CEO, Leo Apotheker, who was the former co-CEO of SAP at the time of the TomorrowNow incident, and may be required to testify as part of the legal proceedings.

Oracle vs. NetApp

Also in 2010, Oracle settled a three-year-old lawsuit with storage vendor NetApp that it inherited through the purchase of Sun Microsystems. The dispute revolved around alleged infringement of patents relating to the ZFS filesystem, which was originally created by Sun.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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