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Sun goes after Azul, Azul throws counterpunch

I have no way of knowing who's IP is being used as the basis for Azul's technology. I still don't like the use of IP as a bludgeon or a saturday night special. I'm not as immediately outraged when Sun files suit for IP infringement as I might be if, for example, NTP did. At least there's reasonable possibility that Azul might inappropriately capitalize on Sun's efforts, while Sun suffers material damage.

I do sympathize with Azul, a group that's been quite innovative and worked hard to move the state of the art forward by more than an inch. It's got to be very daunting to hear the attorneys of a "big company" state that they should sweep in and own a big chunk of your "baby", or that you owe licensing fees that dwarf the amount of venture money that's gone into the company.

There's got to be a better approach to software patents. Is it to do away with them altogether? Probably not. I wish I was sharp enough to ferret out the answer.

See BusinessWeek's review of the doings in Sun Sets on Azul's Technology

... Analysts and former Sun executives say they're somewhat surprised by the row, as Sun has filed relatively few intellectual-property suits over the years. Indeed, its current marketing mantra is "share" -- a campaign built on Sun's belief in developing and supporting industry-standard technologies such as Java.

But Azul tells a different story. It says that from the time Sun first raised concerns in February, 2005, Azul has bent over backwards to prove that the fears were unfounded. Dewitt says he called McNealy after receiving the first letter from Sun's legal department. In the ensuing months, Azul had its outside counsel do an "intellectual-property audit," combing through documents and interviewing former Sun employees on staff to make sure they had not wittingly or unwittingly misused Sun patents or trade secrets. An Azul insider says Sun was uninterested in seeing the results.

Azul says in a court filing that it made other proposals, including "a mediated discussion between the parties' technical teams or other form of mediation or arbitration." Sun's response came in a letter dated May 16, 2005: "We do not need a mediator or independent auditor to point out the obvious," according to Azul's filing. ...

It's no big surprise that RIM has called for U.S. patent reform.

BlackBerry Maker RIM Calls For U.S. Patent Reform

Now that it has settled a long-running patent infringement lawsuit filed by NTP Inc., BlackBerry maker Research In Motion is calling for a "more balanced" U.S. patent system.

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