Yammer CEO David Sacks is really angry about Yahoo’s patent suit against Facebook.Yesterday, he tweeted “Yammer will never hire another former Yahoo employee who doesn’t leave in the next 60 days.”
We caught up with Sacks today to see if he was serious.
He told us that he doesn’t want to “beat up on the rank and file” at Yahoo, so he’s modified his promise to apply only to Yahoo managers, lawyers, and board members.
But he was dead serious about his intention.
Sacks told us, “The only reason why big companies wouldn’t go into this line of work — the law certainly allows it — is because of their own internal sense of integrity, the pressure employees bring to bear, and the ability to recruit and retain talent.”
He thinks Yahoo is looking at patents as a new revenue centre, which sets a dangerous precedent.
“If all the other large tech companies with huge patent portfolios start enforcing patents offensively, not defensively, it’s the end of Silicon Valley. Imagine Amazon enforcing their one-click patent versus every startup doing e-commerce.”
Yammer itself was just hit by a suit from a non-practicing entity, Real Time Social Innovations, a couple weeks ago. (RTSI also sued Facebook, Salesforce, and a bunch of other companies.) The fact that they sued Yammer before it announced its $85 million funding round showed Sacks that the patent trolls are moving downstream.
“They’re going to go to Series C, Series B, Series A …. It doesn’t cost them anything to file a piece of paper. Silicon Valley really needs to band together to get this changed.”
That’s why he views Yahoo’s action as such a betrayal — and why he called on employees to stop it.
For his part, Sacks thinks software patents should be abolished entirely, while the underlying code should still be protected by copyright. He said that Yammer filed patents early on because it was encouraged to do so, but he didn’t feel good about it, and doesn’t buy the argument that patents can protect small entrepreneurs with great ideas.
“If you’re a startup, and you hope to defend your position through patents, forget about it. By the time they’re granted, you won’t be able to enforce them. They’re only useful to patent trolls and large companies with deep pockets who can afford to do something about them.”