The more I think about Ariba's suit against Emptoris this week, the more I side with Michael Lamoureux and Dave Stephens on the issue of software patents. This is an issue that Ariba is all too familiar with, given how ePlus successfully sued them and won nearly $40 million. In that case, ePlus enforced three patents that covered "electronic searches, selections and comparisons; viewing items in multiple supplier catalogs; finding equivalent items and replacements; generating purchase orders from multiple vendors; and electronically checking inventory" according to eWeek.
Guys and gals, let's get real. Every ERP and eProcurement vendor in the world has these capabilities. The deciding issue in this case was that ePlus was able to convince an idiotic jury with half the technology IQ of the patent lawyers that there was not prior art for the patents in question (which clearly there was, going back to the early days of SAP and Oracle business applications) and that Ariba was indeed violating them. One wonders what will happen in the Ariba / Emptoris case given that virtually all reverse auction providers have these capabilities today. Seriously, this software patent race and enforcement has got to stop unless we want the lawyers to win at the expense of innovation.