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Patent holding company targets Linux, files lawsuits against Red Hat and Novell
Written by Daniel   
Friday, 12 October 2007 10:22

Patent holding company targets Linux, files lawsuits against Red Hat and Novell
ARS Technica
By Ryan Paul | Published: October 12, 2007 - 08:42AM CT

Patent holding company IP Innovation has filed a patent infringement suit against Linux distributors Novell and Red Hat. The patent, which describes a "user interface with multiple workspaces for sharing display system objects," dates back to 1987 and originated in Xerox's PARC labs.

IP Innovation seeks damages and injunctive relief. "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," reads the complaint.

The Linux vendors aren't the only companies that have been on the receiving end of lawsuits for allegedly infringing this particular user interface patent. In April, IP Innovation sued Apple and demanded $20 million in damages. Apple eventually settled with the company for an undisclosed amount.

IP Innovation, which is a subsidiary of the Acacia Research Corporation, develops no products of its own. Acacia owns over 140 patents in 38 separate categories, accumulating patents and generating all of its revenue from licensing and litigation. Such companies are generally referred to as "patent trolls" because the manner in which they take advantage of the patent system is broadly considered detrimental to innovation.

Many companies that invest heavily in Linux development have long anticipated patent threats against the operating system, but the defensive measures in place might not be enough to stop this threat. Consider, for instance, the Open Invention Network (OIN), which was originally devised to deter patent litigation by establishing a vehicle for severe retaliation. As critics of the OIN have pointed out in the past, a defensive patent portfolio doesn't provide protection from companies that do not develop products because there is no basis on which to sue them. The OIN's powerful patent portfolio cannot be used to force IP Innovation into a cross-licensing agreement because IP Innovation has no need to license the patents held by others.
The Microsoft connection

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently made headlines by reiterating his belief that Linux infringes on Microsoft's intellectual property and that companies like Red Hat will eventually be forced to pay up. Ballmer has not substantiated his claim by providing evidence or stating which of Microsoft's patents he believes are infringed (at the very least, we think it's safe to say that Linux doesn't infringe Ballmer's patent on a "method and process for forceful and aerodynamic deployment of assorted office furniture objects in realtime").... More      Comment in trhe forums

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