Home David Boies Beat Microsoft Once – Can He Do it Again For Salesforce.com?

David Boies Beat Microsoft Once – Can He Do it Again For Salesforce.com?

A familiar character has entered the stage for Salesforce.com. Attorney David Boies is bringing his celebrated fame back again to take on Microsoft, the company he defeated ten years ago in the U.S. Justice Department’s landmark anti-trust case against the software giant.

Salesforce.com filed suit today, claiming that Microsoft is violating patents across its .Net environment and Sharepoint. Salesforce.com claims Microsoft should have known about the risk of infringement, claiming the violations are patently obvious.

The lawsuit is in response to Microsoft’s own patent infringement case filed last month against Salesforce.com. That suit centers on Salesforce.com customer relationship management software.

Salesforce.com is depending on Boies, 69, one of the more celebrated attorneys of modern times. He represented Vice President Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election recount against George Bush.

In the midst of that turmoil, Time ran a long profile about Boies. He’s a guy who you get the sense fits with the tech celebrity status of Marc Benioff, the chairman and chief executive officer of Salesforce.com.

Benioff is obviously enamored with Boies. He tweeted today as much today:

Boies is a celebrity in his own world as much as Benioff is in tech circles. Boies is also not cheap. A Time magazine profile of Boies, back in 2000, said Boies charged $750 an hour. Considering inflation, it’s conceivable that Boies is charging Salesforce.com more than $1,000 per hour.

Time paints Boies as a character who at the time represented a new breed of superstar lawyer:

“Calmly walking his audience through the intricacies of the case, Boies introduced Americans to a previously undiscovered species of superstar lawyer. He showed none of the self-regarding intellectual pretension of an Alan Dershowitz or the preening, macho strut of a Johnnie Cochran. Unlike his Democratic colleague Warren Christopher, he did not whine. Unlike his Republican opponent James Baker, he did not bully. Instead he explained–lucidly and persuasively.
Those who have been listening for even a year knew that this was characteristic Boies. During the long Microsoft epic, months before he won the devastating verdict against the company last April, they had heard him discuss the company’s monopoly. “This is not about creative legal arguments,” he said at one point. “It’s not about creative economic arguments. It is about common sense. It is about facts, and it is about what the real world demonstrates.’ “

Now, in face of that, consider the magnitude of lawsuits such as these. The Microsoft case looks like they actually have a legitimate case against Salesforce.com. Is hiring such a well-known attorney a defensive measure or part of the offensive battle for Salesforce.com?

Benioff’s tweet is interesting. He says Boies will represent him in his fight against Microsoft. It’s not exactly an offensive pose.

We have to wonder. There’s a sense that the battles ahead could determine the fate of both companies. Salesforce.com is constantly pushing its “no software,” message. It’s targeted right at the software giants of the world, particularly Microsoft.

As for Microsoft, it makes no qualms about its own intentions to pursue the cloud computing services market with Windows Azure.

So we have Microsoft with Ballmer and Salesforce.com with Benioff. And an attorney whose style we already see reflected in the opening salvos of the suit:

…the”risk of infringement was either known or so obvious that it should have been known by Microsoft.”

That’s a pretty clear statement. The question is will that clarity work this time as much as it has in the past?

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