Why SAP is Such a Sap over Software Patents

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I've written before about SAP's regrettable position as probably the biggest European computer company in favour of software patents. If you're really interested, you can read a legalistic explanation of its position in this filing to the European Patent Office [.pdf].) In that, it writes:

In a highly competitive global business environment, SAP depends on appropriate protection for its innovations. For SAP, this of course implies a balanced approach to avoid distortions. SAP strongly relies on the EPO's gatekeeper role to maintain the right balance on patentability issues.”

Ignoring the rather smarmy tone, this basically seems to mean that SAP reckons that it can squeeze more money out of people with its patents than it has to pay, and so is in favour of software patents – regardless of the wider harm they do to the software ecosystem. So I was rather amused to read this story:

SAP has lost a £86m lawsuit brought by Versata Software, which claimed the ERP giant had infringed five of the company's patents.

The patents, granted between 1998 and 2006, concerned methods for configuring systems, pricing products in multilevel product and organisational groups, and multisource transaction processing.

In its complaint, filed in April 2007, Versata maintained that SAP's Business Suite products and related services infringed on the patents.

It has won the damages it asked for, but is still seeking a permanent injunction preventing SAP from infringing on its patents.

It's probably too much to expect a sudden outburst of common sense among SAP's management, but at least it's good to see a pro-software patent company learning the hard way that overall, the costs of litigating and licensing patents from others outweigh any income gained from licensing to third parties. It's not even a zero-sum gain: the only people who win here are the lawyers.

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