To Dell and Back

Over the years, Dell has developed what is now one of the best global Web sites. The Dell site made our top 25 list in the 2005 Web Globalization Report Card and it is a major reason why Dell keeps hitting its numbers year after year. Emerging markets are fueling Dell’s growth and the future looks bright.

Until the lawyers come knocking…

DE Technologies is suing Dell for patent infringement.

Apparently DE Technologies has a patent to a specifc way of managing international transactions, something it calls the BOES (Borderless Order Entry System). Here’s the patent in question. I’m not a patent attorney but this appears like such a far-reaching and vague patent that virtually any ecommerce company could be sued by DE Technologies.

If there is merit to this suit this is a big deal for Dell (among others). Roughly 36% of Dell’s revenues comes from outside the US. DE Technologies claims that more than 4,500 export transactions are handled daily by Dell, generating upwards of $50 million.

DE Technologies wants a percentage of Dell’s sales and, I’m assuming, a percentage of sales from any other company it deems in violation of the patent.

I really hate to see these patent disputes. And I’m wondering if we’re going to need an open source project just for international ecommerce. Perhaps we will, and perhaps Dell would be wise in getting the ball rolling. For less than what it will likely pay its lawyers, it could launch such a project, open it to the world and not have to deal with the likes of DE Technologies any more.

UPDATE:
I registered for a demo of DE Technologies’ BOES service and just received this email:

Thank you for your interest in DE Technologies BOES/ECBS technology (U.S. Patent No. 6,460,020). This demo site which reflects the technology supplied to the United States Foreign Commercial Service of the Department of Commerce under Task Order No. 2051-056-001 (1998) Electronic Commerce Backbone System is no longer accessible.

Due to pending patent infringement litigation to protect our intellectual property and stop the rampant piracy of it we are now restricting this area.

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