Salesforce.com CEO calls Microsoft a 'patent troll'

Marc Benioff says he's 'very disappointed' by Microsoft's lawsuit, and in keynote speech mocks the company's products as 'old technology'

Salesforce.com Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff Tuesday declined to comment on the patent lawsuit brought against his company by Microsoft, but that didn't stop him from calling his rival names.

Last week, Microsoft sued Salesforce.com, alleging that the company infringed nine of its patents. The suit -- a rare example of Microsoft using the courts to defend its patent portfolio -- covers several broad patents, including one for a system used to display a Web page with embedded menus. Another patent covered by the suit covers a method for stacking toolbars in a computer display.

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Speaking with reporters on the sidelines of a company conference in Singapore, Benioff declined to comment on specifics of the suit, but reiterated his description of Microsoft as a patent troll.

"Patent trolls are part of the industry today, that's just the way it is. We've dealt with them before and we'll deal with this situation in the same exact way," Benioff said, noting that the Microsoft lawsuit would have no material impact on the company.

"I'm just very disappointed in this, from a former leader of our industry, that they would do this," he said. "We will resolve it in the way that we have resolved these matters in the past."

During a keynote speech held earlier, Benioff repeatedly mocked Microsoft, describing the company's products as old technology that's out of sync with the emergence of cloud computing, a catch-all term used to describe IT infrastructure and applications delivered as a service over the Internet.

In an earlier conference session, Benioff questioned Microsoft's recent release of a new version of its Office productivity suite, which includes a free Web version. The Web version of Office 2010 is Microsoft's attempt to add cloud-computing capabilities to its productivity suite, but Benioff said it falls short.

"It's a false cloud," he said.

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