Tuesday, I wrote about Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer making IP threats about Linux again -- specifically against Red Hat. On the same day, Texas-based IP Innovation filed a lawsuit against Red Hat and Novell, claiming that certain Linux-based products offered by the companies violate IP Innovation patents. Coincidence? Groklaw's Pamela Jones apparently doesn't think so:
The first ever patent infringement litigation involving Linux. ...We had our first hint when Steve Ballmer said in his speech the other day that he figured other folks besides Microsoft would want Red Hat and FOSS to pay them for their patents. Remember?
Later in the post, she calls the case "SCO II," but she cautions that it won't be just one lawsuit:
It will be one after another, just like Ballmer predicted.
Over at ZDNet, David Berlind wonders whether there's more than a tenuous connection between Microsoft and IP Innovation. (Two former Microsoft employees now work for IP Innovation's parent company, Acacia Research Corporation.) Berlind says:
Is there a connection? Well, there's no smoking gun at this point. And if there was such a connection, you can't help but wonder why Novell would be named in the suit since Microsoft and Novell are now working together to better integrate Windows with Novell's Suse Linux and the arrangement includes patent protection for Novell. So, you'll have to judge for yourself what's going on here.
Stay tuned. If this really is SCO II, we'll be following it for years.
UPDATE: In response to an IT Business Edge e-mail inquiry , the Linux Foundation issued the following statement regarding the case:
Novell and Red Hat will respond to this claim with the same energy and effectiveness as we saw Novell and IBM bring in their response to the allegations made by SCO. As in SCO, we have confidence that in the end the court will reach a just and right result.
This case will aid those of us who are advocating the cause of patent reform by demonstrating the wasteful drain that the current process imposes on innovative activities. We are committed to continuing our vigorous support for meaningful amendment of the software patent laws.