First Linux Patent Suit: Let's Get These Questions out of the Way

Kachina Shaw

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.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Oct 16, 2007 8:21 AM Carlos Carlos  says:
Patents are to be met. Unfortunately the Linux broke several patents and this can not be denied. Reply
Oct 17, 2007 10:19 AM wmb wmb  says:
As long as its the law we just about have to deal with software patents the way they are. I do question if they actually benefit those that the original purpose for patents was meant to benefit, but that is beside the point.Patent law is, however, very detailed. The fact is that filing a case doesn't prove a thing, it has yet to go through the courts. Cases are usually settled out of court but that probably won't happen in this case. Another fact is that its not about linux, in fact SWM would have "broken" this patent it sounds like to - SWM was a commerical product before linux was started. linux is the kernel - this is not about the kernel.Further, there is quite a bit of software on multiple platforms that could possibly be breaking this patent. Indeed, the technique probably originated in the '70s, which if the '70's software is considered "prior art" would invalidate the patent. There were no software patents in the U.S until 1981. The '70's technique was from MIT not Xerox, both ARPA labs. Reply
Nov 6, 2007 6:00 PM Robert Pogson Robert Pogson  says:
Software patents are not valid in most parts of the world. US law does not support them. The USPTO has been making them up. M$, through an advocate in another case, admitted in the Supreme Court of the United States of America that software, by itself, is not patentable.see http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2006/2006_05_1056/argument/"JUSTICE STEVENS: Your time is up, but I want to ask you one yes or no question. In your view is software patentable? MR. JOSEFFER: Standing alone in and of itself, no."So, whatever RedHat or anybody puts in a distro is not subject to patent law because the software is not patentable. M$ and the patent trolls are shouting in the dark. Reply

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