As in life, bluster and threat are commonplace in business – especially the technology business. So that interaction was good preparation for a later meeting with Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. They’d flown in over a weekend to meet with Scott McNealy, Sun’s then CEO – who asked me and Greg Papadopoulos (Sun’s CTO) to accompany him. As we sat down in our Menlo Park conference room, Bill skipped the small talk, and went straight to the point, …

… Bill was delivering a slightly more sophisticated variant of the threat Steve [Jobs] had made, [i.e. to sue] but he had a different solution in mind. “We’re happy to get you under license.” That was code for “We’ll go away if you pay us a royalty for every download” – the digital version of a protection racket.

from “Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal” (a quote attributed to Pablo Picasso*. Referenced by Jonathan Schwartz former CEO of Sun Microsystems (It’s worth reading his whole blog post.)

Like Schwartz, I’m aware that this kind of attempted intimidation has its proponents.

Threatening ‘legal action’ is commonplace and just the threat can unsettle people who know they are in the right, but don’t fancy a fight, for whatever reason.

It takes GUTS and mental preparation (resolve) to resist pressure from bully-boys. Sometimes even intelligent, honest people don’t have the stomach for the fight and cave in — rewarding the bully. (Thereby making things worse for next time.)

It happens.

*Picasso, it should be noted was making a distinction between inspiration and copying — good artists making a duplicate, great artists using it for inspiration.