How Jobs Threatened Sun's CEO: I'll Just Sue You

Apple is currently in the middle of a legal battle with HTC regarding patent infringements relating to the user interface, underlying architecture, and hardware of the iPhone. This week former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz shared his own experiences of Apple litigation and although his did not end in a lengthy legal battle, it certainly provides insight as to what it's like to be on the receiving end of a business call from Steve Jobs.

In a posting on his personal blog, Mr. Schwartz recounts a run in he had with Steve Jobs several years ago. The exchange was in regard to a Linux desktop calling Project Looking Glass.

In 2003, after I unveiled a prototype Linux desktop called Project Looking Glass*, Steve called my office to let me know the graphical effects were “stepping all over Apple’s IP.” (IP = Intellectual Property = patents, trademarks and copyrights.) If we moved forward to commercialize it, “I’ll just sue you.”

However, Johnson was quick to respond with his own questions about intellectual property.

My response was simple. “Steve, I was just watching your last presentation, and Keynote looks identical to Concurrence – do you own that IP?” Concurrence was a presentation product built by Lighthouse Design, a company I’d help to found and which Sun acquired in 1996. Lighthouse built applications for NeXTSTEP, the Unix based operating system whose core would become the foundation for all Mac products after Apple acquired NeXT in 1996. Steve had used Concurrence for years, and as Apple built their own presentation tool, it was obvious where they’d found inspiration. “And last I checked, MacOS is now built on Unix. I think Sun has a few OS patents, too.” Steve was silent.

Project Looking Glass was soon abandoned, though Jonathan says it had nothing to do with Steve Jobs or Apple. He goes on to relay a similar story concerning Open Office, which resulted in a very short meeting with Bill Gates and the crew at Microsoft.

Aside from coming at a time when Apple is suing HTC (many speculate the company is just trying to get at Google in the long run), the entire post raises interesting questions about patents and trademarks. The patent system is one a lot of people believe to be very flawed, and with the news that someone is actually trying to patent the act of patent trolling, who can really blame them?

Read Jonathan's entire post here.

  • dman3k
    Use the Schwartz?
  • thrust2night
    Sing along with me...

    I am rubber you are glue. I will sue sue sue sue you!
  • sliem
    Jobs = greedy hypocrit who thinks he's a God
  • rubix_1011
    Totally rockin' the comb-over/ponytail combo.
  • lightsaber
    I love how the Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz made Jobs stick is tongue up his a$$ with his own comeback....Awesome!!!
  • rhino13
    Maybe cancer will hwlp Jobs realize he aint God.
  • tommysch
    They should divert 10% of their profits to buy as many lawyers as possible.

    Then throw them by the dozen at apple.
  • EvilMonk
    Seriously, I have been a Mac user for almost 15 years and I am seeing what Apple is doing now as stupid, I mean sure, they are using lots of BSD code in OSX and in the iPhone OS, they sell products that are free and just add fat around so you have the impression they give you more, did they get sued for that? Not really because the BSD license is allowing it. And the same apply to the GPL license. Apple always keep on the line of legal but sues up as soon as they get a chance.
  • bustapr
    LOL, I had a lot of fun reading the first line.
  • kresso
    I am rubber, you are glue.

    Reminds me of my favorite Monkey Island insult/comeback:
    Your the ugliest monster ever created/Not if you count the ones you've dated!