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More details emerge about Linux patent suitMatthew Aslett, October 17, 2007 @ 8:27 am ET
So far there’s been plenty of speculation about the patent infringement suit (PDF) filed against Red Hat and Novell, but little detail from the IP enforcement companies behind it about their intentions.
It’s good to see Internetnews.com getting the story from the horse’s mouth, therefore, with Sean Michael Kerner getting this comment from Paul Ryan, chairman and CEO of Acacia Research, parent company of IP Innovation LLC, one of the plaintiffs.
“IP Innovation is not attempting to inject itself in the ongoing philosophical debate of whether products or services which utilize open source are subject to the same intellectual property laws/behaviors as non-open source offerings. Acacia and its subsidiaries do not philosophically differentiate any company, but rather seek to consistently and fairly monetize patent rights from those companies which incorporate patented technology.”
Previously CAOS Theory argued that NetApp’s patent claims against Sun relating to the open source ZFS file system should not necessarily be construed as a direct attack on open source. itself Acacia would like us to believe the same is true of its patent claim.
Ryan also maintained that Acacia’s hiring of Microsoft staff had no bearing on its claims and denied that IP Innovation had any relationship with Microsoft. Microsoft itself has also denied any involvement.
Meanwhile, Groklaw has some interesting insight from an unnamed retired EU patent attorney who has noted that the patent involved are scheduled to expire on December 10, 2008. According to his email, that makes the current litigation all the more curious.
“Normal patentees would be on the whole unlikely to bring expensive patent infringement lawsuits on the basis of patents which are just about to expire. That’s mainly because the litigation can be expected to last until well after the expiry date. After patent expiry, the patentee can no longer get any injunction to stop further infringing trade, because that has by then become free to the public.”
He adds: “After expiry, the only real issue left is usually compensation for infringements that took place before expiry. The expected back royalties or damages have to be very large before it can normally make business sense to sue over the historical usage.”
Stephen Walli recently noted that the targets seemed strange when you consider the comparative size of Red Hat and Novell’s Linux business. “Why not Microsoft? (Acacia went after Apple who settled. Microsoft would seem to have deeper pockets than Red Hat or Novell. It would seem to be the more interesting business discussion.),” he stated.
Perhaps going after smaller vendors with shallower pockets is the better bet if you are litigating against the clock, although it does seem an odd decision not to go for the mother lode. Either way, one suspects that if Acacia was hoping for a quick settlement it is likely to be disappointed.
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