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 augiem on 4/23/2011 6:23:50 PM , Rating: 2
This provides a pretty good negative argument for any company looking to adopt open-source code as the basis for their products. It's IMPOSSIBLE to create anything these days, be it code or otherwise, without infringing on probably hundreds of idiotic, broad stroke, obscure patents. With as complex as software is, a company is much better of just keeping the lid on their code base and infringing away. They'll likely never get caught. And without the average programmer knowing (or caring) anything about patent law, nobody on the inside will likely ever know there's anything infringing going on anyway to squeel about. Open-source opens up the floodgates to the greedy companies and lawyers to pick the flesh from the bones.

RE: Jury in Eastern Texas?
By tecknurd on 4/24/2011 7:13:52 AM , Rating: 2
It is not impossible to create anything. You just have to be more imaginative these days for some something new to develop. Great things about software is there is infinite ways to write a program that can read and write the same output that the original program outputs to.

You could take a game like Angry Birds and copy it, but make a different variation.

The law suite puts a damper on things, but the open source community will find a way to create their own hash. Probably it will be better than the companies' own hash algorithm.

The patent system is at fault spreading to software domain. Patent should be for hardware and license should be for software. License makes it easier to understand how the software can be used while patent just shuts everybody up and lets the creator decide on their own terms how their creation is used. Any company or individual patenting software are basically patent trolls.

RE: Jury in Eastern Texas?
By augiem on 4/27/2011 9:50:44 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with you. Did you know even colors have been patented? But I guess my point really was, how can you possibly even know if you're infringing on patents when there are millions of them and they're ludicrously broad. Even if you're just joe teenager programming a game in your spare time, you're very likely to accidentally reinvent something that's been granted a patent. Having your source code be open just opens the doors to the patent trolls. They're not going to bother you until you're uber successful. But even so, if it were not open, they'd likely never find out.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)

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