Jonathan Schwartz, antiguo presidente y CEO de Sun Microsystems, desvela en su blog un par de anécdotas con Steve Jobs (Apple) y Bill Gates (Microsoft). Cuando ellos imitan productos ajenos resulta que solo se "inspiran", cuando son los otros los que copian sus productos entonces "infringen patentes". Pero Schwartz sabe que las patentes no sirven solo para atacar a tus competidores, también son especialmente útiles para defenderte de quienes intentan atacarte...
Schwartz vs. Steve Jobs:
In 2003, after I unveiled a prototype Linux desktop called Project Looking Glass*, Steve called my office to let me know the graphical effects were “stepping all over Apple’s IP.” (IP = Intellectual Property = patents, trademarks and copyrights.) If we moved forward to commercialize it, “I’ll just sue you.”
My response was simple. “Steve, I was just watching your last presentation, and Keynote looks identical to Concurrence – do you own that IP?”
Schwartz vs. Bill Gates:
Bill skipped the small talk, and went straight to the point, “Microsoft owns the office productivity market, and our patents read all over OpenOffice.” OpenOffice is a free office productivity suite found on tens of millions of desktops worldwide. It’s a tremendous brand ambassador for its owner – it also limits the appeal of Microsoft Office to businesses and those forced to pirate it. Bill was delivering a slightly more sophisticated variant of the threat Steve had made, but he had a different solution in mind. “We’re happy to get you under license.” That was code for “We’ll go away if you pay us a royalty for every download” – the digital version of a protection racket. (...)
[F]earing this was on the agenda, we were prepared for the meeting. Microsoft is no stranger to imitating successful products, then leveraging their distribution power to eliminate a competitive threat – from tablet computing to search engines, their inspiration is often obvious (I’m trying to like Bing, I really am). So when they created their web application platform, .NET, it was obvious their designers had been staring at Java – which was exactly my retort. “We’ve looked at .NET, and you’re trampling all over a huge number of Java patents. So what will you pay us for every copy of Windows?” Bill explained the software business was all about building variable revenue streams from a fixed engineering cost base, so royalties didn’t fit with their model… which is to say, it was a short meeting.
También es recomendable este artículo de Slate sobre la demanda de Apple a la compañía taiwanesa HTC por violación de 20 patentes del iPhone (un ataque subrepticio a Google), que podría aplicarse también a otros competidores como Microsoft, Motorola, Palm o Research in Motion.