Print 26 comment(s) - last by augiem.. on Apr 27 at 9:50 PM

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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RE: Jury in Eastern Texas?
By Solandri on 4/23/2011 4:58:08 AM , Rating: 3
1) Open Source does not mean you can just shove anything in there and it magically becomes patent proof. Patents are on ideas & methods, open source code can infringe as easily as something Apple, Google or MS puts out.

The real problem here is that this was ever awarded as a patent by the USPTO. Basically, the patent covers garbage collection while you're traversing a linked list for any reason other than garbage collection. It's one of those "so obvious nobody else tried to patent it before" patents. The analogy someone gave on Slashdot was, while you're digging through your fridge looking for something to eat, you notice the ketchup is expired so you throw it away.

2) The jury in East Texas is likely quite expert on patents because their local court is known for being patent holder friendly.

Who cares if they're an expert on patents? To judge the validity of a patent, you have to be an expert on the subject matter of the patent. Not patent law itself.

RE: Jury in Eastern Texas?
By wordsworm on 4/23/2011 9:13:21 AM , Rating: 1
I don't think you caught his attempt at sarcasm.

That aside, anyone with basic reading comprehension can be made to understand the issues at the heart of the lawsuit. This isn't rocket science. However, since it's in Texas... Additionally, if you're an expert on the subject, there's a good chance that you're going to be jaded before going into the court. That's why experts go up as witnesses rather than sit in as jury members.

RE: Jury in Eastern Texas?
By semiconshawn on 4/23/2011 4:17:56 PM , Rating: 1
This isn't rocket science. However, since it's in Texas...

You are aware of the space center in Houston full of rocket scientists right? Idiot. Did you catch that attempt at sarcasm?

RE: Jury in Eastern Texas?
By ICBM on 4/23/2011 7:46:56 PM , Rating: 1
Basic reading comprehension is a rare thing. Especially in East Texas!

RE: Jury in Eastern Texas?
By semiconshawn on 4/24/11, Rating: 0
RE: Jury in Eastern Texas?
By wordsworm on 4/24/2011 4:12:45 AM , Rating: 3
Maybe that ought to be a criteria for those who become jury members... reading and listening tests...

RE: Jury in Eastern Texas?
By semiconshawn on 4/24/2011 4:21:45 AM , Rating: 1
Then you would have to make that a criteria to graduate high school. ;-)

RE: Jury in Eastern Texas?
By wordsworm on 4/25/2011 2:03:06 AM , Rating: 2
Isn't there already a problem with percentages of young people dropping out? Hell, I used to edit for engineering grad papers. The professor told me that their biggest challenge was in writing a basic essay. They could easily get As or better, but fail the basic English requirement. However, I believe that's a fault of the establishment: they don't allow science students to take arts for credit. That helps explain why a lot of scientists and engineers cannot read or write well.

RE: Jury in Eastern Texas?
By drycrust3 on 4/23/2011 1:46:40 PM , Rating: 2
It's one of those "so obvious nobody else tried to patent it before" patents.

So does this affect just Linux distributions or all operating systems?

RE: Jury in Eastern Texas?
By niva on 4/25/2011 12:41:22 PM , Rating: 2
It's in the linux kernel and clearly still in use across all linux distributions/flavors. Definitely some patent trolling going on with these guys though. I guess it's one way to make money.

This one case though is a strike against OSS. Perhaps MS is using the same technology but since their source is closed it's probably impossible for those companies to go after them. Linux source does give them a definite ability to do this. Unfortunately there's no good outcome for linux since this patent is so all encompassing removing the offensive functionality from the code would be a serious setback for all of linux.

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