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Implications of the lawsuit could stretch far and wide across IT industry

FOSS Patents blog reports that a Texas jury has ruled against Google in a patent infringement case that will cost the company at least $5 million in damages.

The jury ruled in favor of Bedrock Computer Technologies LLC, a company run by former patent reformer David Garrod, on April 20. Garrod is now a patent troll who targets small companies that operate in the notoriously patent troll-friendly jurisdiction of the Eastern District of Texas along with larger companies just to have the case brought to trial in that jurisdiction.

Bedrock -- which filed the suit in June 2009 against Softlayer Technologies, CitiWare Technology Solutions, Google, Yahoo!, MySpace,, PayPal,, AOL, and the CME Group --  alleged that a Linux kernel infringes on a 1997 patent relating to "methods and apparatus for information storage and retrieval using a hashing technique with external chaining and on-the-fly removal of expired data."

As Ars Technica wrote about the lawsuit when it was first filed in 2009: "It's a textbook example of patent trolling: a lawsuit over a relatively broad and dubious patent executed by a company that makes nothing itself against a random assortment of deep-pocketed industry leaders."

It's also interesting that the CitiWare Technology Solutions is a company based in the Eastern District of Texas that has no products, no employees, and no longer exists.

But the Linux kernel that the jury ruled infringes on the patent is at the heart of Google's server farm. The allegations against Google were the first to go to trial, and Google's attempts to invalidate the patent failed.

In addition to the $5 million owed by Google, the implications of the case stretch far and wide across the IT industry, particularly for Linux and Google's Linux-based Android mobile OS, FOSS Patents reports. The money owed by Google is just for past damages. Companies who continue to use the Linux kernel will have to pay royalties.

In relation to Android, Google will most likely be forced to change the Linux kernel it distributes with Android to remove the infringing code.

The decision also doesn't bode well for the 40-some other patent infringement cases related to Android that Google is currently dealing with. "If Google can't defend itself successfully against one patent held by a little non-practicing entity from Texas, what does this mean for Oracle's lawsuit over seven virtual machine patents?" Florian Mueller writes in the FOSS Patents blog. "This shows that having deep pockets to afford the best lawyers isn't enough." 

Google will likely appeal the verdict.

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We're going all the way back to 2010, Marty!
By The Raven on 4/23/2011 1:55:43 AM , Rating: 2
The accused infringement relates to the Linux kernel itself, which is at the core of Google's server farm. The complaint named a long list of allegedly infringing Linux versions, starting with the 2.4.22.x tree all the way to version "2.6.31.x, or versions beyond 2.6.31.x."

So this doesn't sound that bad if this is the case. 2.4 was mid 2010 or so right? I'm just going off of memory, I don't know how to look that history up, so please correct me if I'm wrong.

RE: We're going all the way back to 2010, Marty!
By amanojaku on 4/23/2011 2:17:53 AM , Rating: 2
Linux kernel 2.4 came out in 2001, and should be EOL in September 2011. It has been replaced by 2.6, which has been available since 2003.

That's pretty much any working Linux system today, assuming admins have been diligent about patching and upgrading.

By mindless1 on 4/24/2011 5:02:48 PM , Rating: 2
You are overlooking something. If a box is sufficiently hardened and does the required job, there is no need to update it.

Think of an OS like the firmware for a VCR, do you keep updating that if it plays tapes ok? We are at the end of the era where people think you need to be a slave to a machine constantly babysitting it!

By melgross on 4/23/2011 12:01:06 PM , Rating: 2
But as you can see for yourself, he's suing for all versions after as well, so it's pretty serious.

And unlike what some people may think here, it's not always so easy to remove code and replace it. This could be difficult, and consume some time. Google should have done this already, just in case. I don't know what their thinking on this is, but they've proven to be arrogant, so possibly they've done nothing.

"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton

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