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6/24/2005
06:00 PM
John Soat
John Soat
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IT Confidential: R-E-S-P-E-C-T, If I Had A Hammer, Changes

THE IP HAMMER. Want to know what all the fuss is about with intellectual property? Just look at what Enterasys did last week, and you'll know why companies are spending so much time and effort figuring out their IP strategies. Enterasys sued two of its rivals, Extreme Networks and Foundry Networks, for allegedly infringing several of its patents. Enterasys, which was spun off from Cabletron in 2001, markets corporate networking products. It claims Extreme and Foundry infringe its patents on virtual LAN, multiprotocol routing, and other networking technologies, according to a company statement. Enterasys says it has more than 640 patents or pending patents worldwide and filed for more than a dozen patents in the United States last year alone. It's no coincidence that this action comes when Enterasys is in financial trouble. Two weeks ago, Enterasys said it would close its Rochester, N.H., facility as part of a cost-cutting plan that includes 300 layoffs. Enterasys executive VP Gerry Haines said the lawsuits represent the company's "determination to protect our innovations, and to benefit from the significant value we have created in the form of our intellectual property." And IP isn't a bad competitive weapon of last resort.

HEY, IT'S ONLY OUR CUSTOMERS. The Customer Respect Group, a consulting firm that advises companies on how to interact with customers online, put out its fourth annual Online Customer Respect study of 100 large U.S. companies. The results: Only 35 got "good" or "excellent" ratings and 30 continue to share online customer Information without permission. The best site was Hewlett-Packard, and five others figured in the "excellent" category: American Express, Intel, Medco Health Solutions, Sprint, and UPS. The Customer Respect Group interviews consumers and examines companies' Web sites to create an index of online performance. The lowest on the list was Berkshire Hathaway, which, according to the group, "does not conduct extensive online customer interactions." More surprising, according to the group, were low performers Morgan Stanley, Pepsi, and Viacom, which are considered consumer savvy.

YUM, YUM, EAT 'EM UP. If you had any doubts Oracle wants to buy out the entire software industry, put them to rest. Oracle hired Greg Maffei, former Microsoft CFO, as its president and CFO. Maffei oversaw an aggressive run of expansion at Microsoft from 1997 to 2000. Recently, Maffei was CEO of fiber-optics firm 360Networks. Maffei, 45, will oversee Oracle's legal, human-resources, manufacturing, distribution, and real-estate operations in addition to his role as CFO. Oracle's previous CFO, Harry You, left in March to take the top spot at BearingPoint.

NOTHING CHANGES. Speaking of Microsoft, the judge who originally ruled in the Microsoft antitrust case and ordered a breakup of the company said he'd do the same thing today, given Microsoft's aggressive business practices. Thomas Penfield Jackson, who retired as a federal judge last year, told Bloomberg News, "Nothing has changed, to my observation, in the five years that have elapsed since my decision."

Nothing? That can't be true--for one thing, I have a new gig! I'm the anchor of an excruciatingly entertaining tech-industry news show, which can be seen daily beginning at noon ET at thenewsshow.tv or on InformationWeek.com. Don't forget to watch the show and send me an industry tip:jsoat@cmp.com or phone 516-562-5326.

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