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Sendo Accuses MS of Stealing Smartphone IP 231

Posted by michael
from the pump-and-dump dept.
Nate B. writes "According this article in The Inquirer, it seems that Sendo, a UK based development house, has filed suit in Texas as of December 23 to recoup monetary damages for IP it claims Microsoft stole. From the article, 'The company's grievance is that after years of working closely with Microsoft on the development of Windows Smartphone 2002, the fruits of their endeavours were handed straight over to HTC, which manufactures the SPV handset for Orange.' The story also includes this cute footnote, 'When Sendo announced it was to receive funding from Microsoft, I and some other British journalists asked Sendo's Hugh Brogan at the press briefing, in the London Waldorf, whether he wasn't afraid that the company might just take its information and then dump his firm. He claimed then there was no possibility of that.'" Seems there was more to this story than originally thought.
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Sendo Accuses MS of Stealing Smartphone IP

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  • It's not stealing (Score:1, Insightful)

    by ACNiel (604673) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @11:29AM (#4960414)
    They still have the IP, nobody took it from them, yadda yadda yadda.
  • by burgburgburg (574866) <splisken06 @ e m a i l . com> on Thursday December 26, 2002 @11:33AM (#4960433)
    Are there any small companies that MS has had dealings with that they haven't royally screwed over? Either directly stealing their work or after working "with" them, coming out with a competing product (with borrowed IP) that severely undercut them?

    It just seems like the first day MS approaches you is the day you should start preparing the lawsuit against them.

  • by oliverthered (187439) <olivertheredNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Thursday December 26, 2002 @11:35AM (#4960440) Journal
    The anti-trust case wasn't about breaking a monopoly, it was about preventing the use of the monopoly to leverage an unfare advantage in another market.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 26, 2002 @11:36AM (#4960444)
    we've seen this over and over. M$oft does something bad, they waste time in court, nothing happens


    Question is, why do people still try to do business with Microsoft ?

    By now it should have been obvious that Microsoft isn't a very trustworthy business partner, but for some reason people keep throwing their money and technology at Bill & cronies...
  • Re:Lesson Learned (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Iamthefallen (523816) <Gmail name: Iamthefallen> on Thursday December 26, 2002 @11:36AM (#4960445) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, but when you escort her home after the prom and find out the "girl" is really a man who now tells you to bite the pillow, this'll hurt a little, I think you have a right to be upset...

  • by bwalling (195998) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @11:42AM (#4960463) Homepage
    They still have the IP, nobody took it from them, yadda yadda yadda.

    take verb - to get into one's hands or into one's possession, power, or control

    steal verb - to take the property of another wrongfully and especially as an habitual or regular practice

    Just because Sendo still have a copy does not mean it was not taken or stoeln. IP is something that can be possessed by more than one party. That does not mean that it cannot be taken or stolen.

    Definitions taken from Merriam Webster
  • Old vs New Advice (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @11:52AM (#4960495) Homepage Journal
    Old advice:
    Talk softly and carry a big stick.

    New advice:
    Be huge, take IP, run the little guy down with your army of lawyers.

    Not saying this is happening, but it's certainly a familiar pattern with Microsoft.

  • by leandrod (17766) <l@@@dutras...org> on Thursday December 26, 2002 @11:56AM (#4960511) Homepage Journal
    >
    any small companies that MS has had dealings with that they haven't royally screwed over?

    Not only small. IBM, Sybase, Orange... I think even Spyglass was not so small at the time.

  • by fermion (181285) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:03PM (#4960530) Homepage Journal
    On one hand this is nothing interesting. Companies enter into these type of agreements all the time, often with the intention of gaining expertise that will allow them, in the fullness of time, to compete. However, normally both parties are required to fulfill some obligation complete the contract. Several issues ago, Foreign Affairs has a very good article on this type of business practice and it's benefits to free enterprise.

    The interesting thing is that MS seems to be an expert at entering into these sorts of strategic alliances without incurring any burden of responsibility. In this case MS took the technology, took the manufacturing rights, and left Sendo with nothing. One would think the contract would have prevented this, or specified financial consequences if MS did such a thing. They certainly have a history of destroying partners, and it seems like prudent partner would take this history into account. The MS lawyers and sales people must be excellent con men if they can routinely negotiate deals like this.

  • Re:Yawn (Score:3, Insightful)

    by leandrod (17766) <l@@@dutras...org> on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:13PM (#4960564) Homepage Journal
    Every Fortune 500 company is constantly in court.

    Yet bad companies do get sued more often than ones that still try to do good. That is, they would if there were still companies trying to do good, which I do not rule out but seriously doubt.

    ot even the Wall Street Journal reports on every little piddling lawsuit that every single Fortune 500 company is involved in.

    This is not any Fortune 500 company, but a high-visibility one.

    This is not only a high-visibility Fortune 500 company, but one with a bad enough history.

    This is also a mean, high-profile big company that happens to be in direct, ruthless, dishonest competition with the main public of Slashdot, that is, free software hackers, users and friends.

  • by spanky1 (635767) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:18PM (#4960582)
    ...is like making a deal with the Borg. They will take advantage of you until you are no longer needed. Then you're screwed. The Bill Gates Borg picture started out as a joke but seems to be more and more fitting each day.

    Reminds me of that Voyager episode called "Scorpion" where the crew tried to make a deal with the Borg. Of course the Borg tried to screw them over in the end. The only good thing about it is it brought us Seven of Nine. :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:20PM (#4960590)
    Well, if you sleep with the devil, expect to wake up with a sore ass!!!
  • What's the beef? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mundocani (99058) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:23PM (#4960605)
    Not to be too quick to defend Microsoft (certainly not on /.), but the article didn't actually given any details on Sendo's complaint. What is it that Microsoft has "stolen" from them? For all we know right now, it's something stupidly obvious like "a method for simulating pushbuttons on an LCD" or "pressing talk without entering a number automatically redials the last number called". There's probably more to it than this, but all these posts are so quick to assume Microsoft's guilt without having any substantial information other than the fact that a suit has been filed. If I were Sendo, I'd probably claim Microsoft was oppressing me too -- hell, everyone assumes it anyhow so what's there to lose? Even the article's quote about the case "having merit" came from Sendo themselves. Well of course *they're* going to say that! I'd be much more impressed if somebody independent said the same thing.

    Yeah, Microsoft's business practices are shady at best, but we don't have any substantial information about Sendo's claims at all right now, so it seems foolish to forming opinions so prematurely.
  • Re:Hypocracy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hkmwbz (531650) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:24PM (#4960607) Journal
    Excuse me? Who is the hypocrite here?

    Should Microsoft be able to take and use any information just because they are big enough to get away with it? Should they be able to do it when they want all information to belong to them, and not be free?

    The "information wants to be free" people will accept free information for Microsoft the day Microsoft agree to share their information.

    Of course one shouldn't let Microsoft get away with this when they are in a situation where they basically dominate the desktop market and are trying to use this to take over other markets as well.

    So who is the hypocrite? The ones that want everyone to have the same possibilities, or the one who is wondering why the "information wants to be free" people aren't supporting the convicted monopolist who is using this for their own gain - as usual? The one who wants information to be made free for Microsoft so they can continue to screw over others?

    The "information wants to be free folks" support people who work to the best interest of everyone, sharing information. Of course they won't support a monopolist which tries to screw others to strengthen its own position in as many markets as possible.

  • Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quill_28 (553921) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:45PM (#4960695) Journal
    My company has had dealing with Microsoft, yet never had a sale. The reason:

    We commonly sell source code to our customers but they usually are limited to a specific product family.

    Everytime we deal with them they will not agree the code will turn up in other areas of microsoft, which we deem unacceptable and the deal is off. In our area, MS is not important so it's not a big deal.

    I haven't read the article but i wonder how many times, others business "have" to deal with MS overlook things like the above, realize they have been screwed and then sue. Or get greedy for the MS deal, get screwed and then sue. Or maybe just plained got screwed by ole MS.

    Or maybe it's all over my head and just business as usual. Yeah that's probably it.

  • Reuters story (Score:3, Insightful)

    by donutello (88309) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:48PM (#4960713) Homepage
    Here's [msn.com] the Reuters story on this from a few days ago which contains more information.

    "Microsoft's secret plan was to plunder the small company of its proprietary information, technical expertise, market knowledge, customers and prospective customers," the filing said.

    So now stealing "customers and prospective customers" is a crime for a competitor to commit? Sounds like a case of another company (hint, Sun) which can't achieve success through selling its product so hopes to achieve it through litigation.
  • by Zenki (31868) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:51PM (#4960729)
    If Sendo had the brains to check out what microsoft does with PocketPC, AutoPC, etc, they would realize that MS is in these businesses to sell a uniform platform to people who build hardware that will support it. Eg, what's the real difference between the recent Toshiba PocketPC, Compaq Ipaq, and HP Jornandas? Pretty much nothing. They're all arm, all running PocketPC os, and there really isn't anything that distinguishes them other than some stylistic differences.

    MS must have made it clear to Sendo in their deal that they were going to develop a generic cellphone OS that other companies can just bundle in with their telephones.

    Anyhow, if Sendo had decided to sue the moment they decided to drop Smartphone, I would have given their lawsuit more credence. Right now, it looks like they're trying to hit up MS to get some $$ before they can get their phone design converted over to Symbian.

    Hell, someone should publish the contract that the two companies agreed too. It just a waste of energy to speculate on what happened.
  • by Otis_INF (130595) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:56PM (#4960745) Homepage
    Err no. To enlighten you a bit:
    Apple: Rip-off
    Hardly. Xerox was ripped of by both MS and Apple (and others)

    IBM: OS/2
    It was a joined effort. MS has worked on OS/2 as well. No-one talks about the fact that IBM used MS' work when selling OS/2

    Sendo: Rip-off
    This is to be seen. If Sendo signed a contract MS could use the material, Sendo'll stay empty handed. And most of the time when it comes to a Company A sues company B because of IP theft it is basicly regret of company A that they've signed the wrong contract with B.

    Sun: Java & C#
    Come on... Both have C++ as their predecessor. If you say C# is based on Java, you then claim also that Java is the start of a new, unique path in the languages-tree. But that's not true. Java is based on C++, so C# is also based on C++.

    Sybase: SQL Server
    Also very wrong. MS and Sybase worked together on SQLServer, using a codebase provided by Sybase. However after 6.0 MS decided to part ways with Sybase, resulting in a 100% rewrite of SQLServer in v7.0.

    Besides that, doing business with companies when IP is involved is a thing where you have to keep your IP attorney at hand for most of the time: nail everything off in tight contracts so no-one can fool you, steal your IP or rip you off in the long run. But what happens most of the time is this:

    Company A, large big company, decides it's cheaper to work together with company B, small company with some intellectual property A wants. A does a proposal to B, which B rejects because it means B is selling the IP to A for a bargain. A then decides it is perhaps better to work it out in-house, so leaves B alone. B sees its targetmarket soon be transfered to the targetmarket of A, so decides to accept the offer of A. However, after a few years, B regrets this decision and wants to turn back the tables. No can do. Contracts are signed, B should have payed more attention. B can go to court, perhaps A will settle the case for some money to stop the bad press, but that will be all.

    A isn't necessarily Microsoft. All big companies have this kind of cases regularly, especially companies who are in markets where having IP is having the advantage over your competitors.
  • by Dirtside (91468) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @01:08PM (#4960781) Journal
    but all the pirates think that if they somehow call it something else it isn't as bad.
    Not quite. They call it something else because it isn't as bad.
  • by Col. Klink (retired) (11632) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @01:25PM (#4960840)
    The point here is that Sendo and MS had a formal business relationship. When Sendo found it couldn't get what it needed from MS, they parted ways, only to find that MS had stolen from Sendo.

    The whole point of the .NET vs Mono article was that Mono faces an uphill battle. They don't even have so much as any formal working relationship, and (as the original article [zdnet.com] mentioned):

    Mono also implements parts of .NET that have NOT been submitted to ECMA and ISO standards. Those parts of Mono lack even the protection for IP infringement with re-implementation that ISO documentation licensing implies.
    Dealing with MS, even when you think you're getting some great deal, has consistently been proven to be dangerous proposition.
  • Re:Stac? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SN74S181 (581549) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @01:26PM (#4960842)
    Microsoft didn't 'bundle' Stac's software. They reimplemented the algorhythm themselves, without permission. You know: kind of like the 'Software Patent' stuff that we all rant and rave about unless it involves Microsoft in a bad light.
  • Re:Lesson Learned (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jridley (9305) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @01:29PM (#4960856)
    Why are these being modded to offtopic? Do the moderators not "get" the analogy here?
  • Re:Reuters story (Score:3, Insightful)

    by buss_error (142273) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @02:06PM (#4961024) Homepage Journal
    So now stealing "customers and prospective customers" is a crime for a competitor to commit?

    It is if you, through contracts, IP sharing, and business ties, do so to the detriment of the owner of the information.

    It's one thing if you and I are in the consulting business in competition, and I get some of your customers by calling around and offering them a better price. It's quite another matter if I bribe your accountant and get a list of all your customers.

    What Sendio is saying is that MS invested in the company, signed contracts to develop and market cell phones. In exchange, MS promised Sendio that Sendio would make the phone and software, clear it with the cell system operators (no small task that), in exchange Sendio would get a partnership with MS and profits. Sendio says that instead of honoring that contract, MS gave all the work to Sendio's competitor, MS took a larger slice of the profits, and left Sendio to die because all their hard work was given away.

    If this is true, (and I don't know if it is or isn't), then MS has a big problem. If the court gets nasty, they could award Sendio millions and millions, list the phone as pirate technology (and WTO treaty partners would have to forbid importation of the phone), and other things that wouldn't make God Gates happy. In fact, if the court really got vendictive, they can say CE copyrights are null/void, and order MS to release the source code to CE. (Not that it will happen or that anyone would want it anyway.) As always, IANAL. IDEPOOTV. (I don't even play one on TV).

  • Re:Lesson Learned (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 26, 2002 @02:14PM (#4961083)
    Bah, let the mods fubar their mod points. I get them in the metamod ;) and kill their karma right back. You asshole/ incompetent mods _do_ know that metamod affects your karma, right?
  • by Ducky (10802) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @02:21PM (#4961119) Homepage

    I mean, M$ has this history of embrace and extend in technology, and embrace and nuke in corporate relationships.

    Everything old is new again =)

    I'm absolutely amazed how many times, they've done this to corporate entities. And every single time, just as the ink is drying, someone asks, "So, are you afraid MS will take the tech and leave?" And they respond with, "No! That's impossible! They wouldn't do that to us!"

    I happen to work for a company where this exact thing transpired at one of their spin-offs a few years back. MS took all the tech and left the spin-off with nothing to productize. Fortunately for the employees, most were folded back into the parent company.

    Truely sad they can get away with it. That, and that others are so naive to sign up for this treatment with their track record.

    And people wonder why I have such a distaste for Microsoft. And before anyone asks, yes, I'm MS free both at home and at work. =)

    -Ducky

  • by leandrod (17766) <l@@@dutras...org> on Thursday December 26, 2002 @05:54PM (#4962606) Homepage Journal
    >
    Xerox was ripped of by both MS and Apple

    Yes, but MS Win was a direct rip-off of the Apple Macintosh System, not of the Xerox Alto. Perhaps we would have had a better MS WXP now if its ancestry had been more than a toy...

    Anyway, the point is that MS built a relationship with Apple, then abused it by doing what it asserted it would not do. Granted they have been prompted by Apple being stubborn about leaving off OEMs MS depended on, such as Compaq.

    >
    It was a joined effort

    Yes, but then MS deceived IBM on its commitment to OS/2 until they had MS W16 3.1 ready. Then they refused to make MS W32 an open standard on which OS/2 could compete.

    >
    Come on... Both have C++ as their predecessor.

    Agreed, but apart from the common type system C# has little point in existing other than providing MS its own Java competitor geared to keep and foster a preference for the MS W32 OS. Also, MS tried first to create its own Java quirks to the same effect.

    >
    a 100% rewrite of SQLServer in v7.0.

    It hardly matters, as by then they had learned all they wanted from Sybase. They sucked all the knowledge they wanted, then dumped their partner. As always.

  • by Mundocani (99058) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @06:44PM (#4962947)
    What smoking gun? What corpse? All I see so far is a failed business deal and a company who initially claimed one reason ("no source code access") now claiming another ("they gave away our secrets"). This whole thing smells funny to me, but it's neither from rotting corpses nor what's in my pipe.

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