VMware CEO Cites Patent Weakness Among Newer Tech Players

by Sam Dean - Sep. 06, 2011Comments (1)

Do prominent social media companies own enough patents? While the Facebooks and Twitters of the world have risen to prominence on the basis of many innovations, these companies are still young, and there are some technology industry veterans who think that their patent portfolios are weak enough to cause them legal trouble in the years ahead. VMware CEO Paul Maritz has now come out and said that companies such as Facebook don't have many patents and could get muscled out of enterprise usage scenarios based on that fact.

It's an indisputable fact that patents matter in today's technology landscape. Just look at Google's Motorola Mobility purchase. Motorola has over 17,000 patents, many of them key mobile technology patents. Many analysts felt that Google saw those patents as the crown jewels in the acquisition, bolstering its ability to defend Android and devices based on it.

In an interview with BusinessWeek, VMware CEO Paul Maritz said "When the continents shift and new players come into a space, it results in an unstable situation.” Specifically, he foresees some of the newer social media companies ending up in skirmishes with more established technology companies with huge patent portfolios, and the new kids on the block may lose these fights. 

The important thing to note here is that Maritz was a long-time Microsoft executive who focused specifically on the Windows operating system and the many key patents that Microsoft accumulated over his years with the company. He knows about the "old school vs. new school" issues directly from the perspective of the old school.

BusinessWeek's story suggests that the skirmishes between newer social media companies and older technology companies may be focused on the data center. Given how important applications such as Facebook are to what people consider "messaging" and other key business tasks, that may be an accurate call.

In any case, the Facebooks and Twitters of the world may have to tackle this problem through acquisitions of companies with patent portfolio strengths. That doesn't dominate the headlines that these companies generate, but could become a critical issue for them.


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