The seal has been broken on patent infringement lawsuits against Linux, with a filing Tuesday by IP Innovation LLC against Red Hat and Novell for infringing on Patent No. 5,072,412 with their Novell SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop, Novell SuSE Linux Enterprise Server, and Red Hat Linux system, respectively.
Well, we sure waited long enough.
More than any other question raised so far, now that the filing has become public knowledge, is whether Microsoft is behind this action. After all, didn't Steve Ballmer announce just a few days ago that "people who use Red Hat, at least with respect to our intellectual property, in a sense, have an obligation to eventually compensate us"?
Didn't the Eolas-Microsoft patent dispute finally come to an end a couple of months ago, and doesn't that mean that Microsoft will now use Eolas to go after/bring suits against alleged Microsoft patent infringers?
Didn't IP Innovation's parent company, Acacia Technologies Group, recently hire former Microsoft General Manager of Intellectual Property Licensing Brad Brunell and former Microsoft Director of Strategic Alliances for Microsoft's Mobile and Embedded Business Unit Jonathan Taub?
Yes, yes, but does a week go by that Ballmer doesn't stick a finger in open source's eye, or otherwise call attention to himself through surprisingly less-than-staid actions? How many other times have Microsoft execs discussed the idea of litigation against open source vendors? And if Microsoft had engaged Acacia/IP Innovation to handle this action secretly, would Ballmer have made this thinly veiled announcement? Statements like those, which Ballmer knows will be repeated and analyzed, are designed to bring those open source vendors into the deal-making arena, not announce a filing.
It's true that many have been surmising that now that Eolas won over $500 million in its patent suit against Microsoft, it might join Redmond in pursuing another target, or receive encouragement from Microsoft to do so. It seems unlikely that such a joint effort would get under way this quickly, though.
And the former Microsoft execs now with Acacia make for a bit of juicy gossip, especially since Brunell brought plenty of deep knowledge of Microsoft IP strategy with him. But a former Microsoft employee is not a current Microsoft employee, and Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet has gotten a statement from Microsoft that it is not involved in any way in this litigation."
For more on patent conspiracy theories, see Rob Enderle's blog pot here at IT Business Edge.
For more on Red Hat's and Novell's plans regarding the filing, see Lora Bentley's post.