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10.11.07

Here Come the Patent Infringement Suits (Updated)

Posted in Action, Courtroom, Free/Libre Software, FUD, GNU/Linux, Intellectual Monopoly, Law, Novell, Patents, Red Hat, Steve Ballmer at 12:33 pm by Shane Coyle

Hmmm…. Ballmer Was Right?

Recently, in his most recent FUD eruption regarding Red Hat and alleged Microsoft IP violations, the Microsoft CEO also implied that one day soon other companies would "go to the open source world".

That’s why we’ve done the deal we have with Novell, where not only are we working on technical interoperability between Linux and Windows but we’ve also made sure that we could provide the appropriate, for the appropriate fee, Novell customers also get essentially the rights to use our patented intellectual property. And I think it’s great the way Novell stepped up to kind of say intellectual property matters. People use Red Hat, at least with respect to our intellectual property in a sense have an obligation to eventually to compensate us. [emphasis ours]

There are plenty of other people who may also have intellectual property. And every time an Eolas comes to Microsoft and says, “Pay us,” I suspect they also would like to eventually go to the open source world. So getting what I’ll call an intellectual property interoperability framework between the two worlds I think is important.

Well, it appears that a company known as IP Innovation LLC is now filing suit against Red Hat and Novell, regarding a patent for "a User Interface with Multiple Workspaces for Sharing Display System Objects". Having adopted a no-look policy regarding spurious software patents, I cannot comment on any specifics (the patent number is below for the curious and masochistic).

IP Innovation LLC et al vs. Red Hat Inc. et al

Plaintiffs IP Innovation and Technology Licensing Corp. claim to have the rights to U.S. Patent No. 5,072,412 for a User Interface with Multiple Workspaces for Sharing Display System Objects issued Dec. 10, 1991 along with two other similar patents.

Defendants Red Hat Inc. and Novell have allegedly committed acts of infringement through products including the Red Hat Linux system, the Novell Suse Linex[SIC] Enterprise Desktop and the Novell Suse Linex[SIC] Enterprise Server.

“Red Hat’s and Novell’s infringement, contributory infringement and inducement to infringe has injured plaintiffs and plaintiffs are entitled to recover damages adequate to compensate them for such infringement but in no event less than a reasonable royalty,” the original complaint states.

The plaintiffs also allege that defendants received notice of the patents, therefore the infringing activities have been deliberate and willful.

Plaintiffs are seeking an injunction from the court, increased damages and other relief that the court or a jury may deem just and proper.

T. John Ward Jr. of Ward & Smith Law Firm in Longview is representing the plaintiff.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Leonard E. Davis.

Case No. 2:07-cv-00447-LED

Now, I don’t believe this is the first infringement suit that has ever been filed against Red Hat, but is this the leading edge of a new wave of litigation spurred on by Mr. Ballmer’s repeated accusations? We’ll have to wait and see, I suppose. In the meantime, can anyone think of any prior art for having ‘multiple workspaces’ in your GUI?

Update:
The folks at Groklaw have picked up the ball and started running on this one, so you can find fairly comprehensive coverage of this suit and possible connections between the plaintiff (an Acacia subsidiary) and our friends from Redmond over there as well.

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