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June 12, 2008

Through Its Hat

Linux purveyor Red Hat found its open source a bit too loose, so it settled two patent infringement suits with DataTern. One of the suits was brought by FireStar, which later assigned 6,101,502 to DataTern. DataTern steered '502 and 5,937,402 into the black from Red Hat. Delusional, Red Hat expressed belief that its settlement will serve as precedent to discourage similar suits. More likely, Red Hat has painted itself as an easy mark.

An object-relational mapping tool, Hibernate, was the accused product. Red Hat picked upon the patent problem by buying JBoss, Hibernate maker, for $350 million shortly before the FireStar suit was filed.

Financial terms were not disclosed. They almost never are. But Red Hat did indicate that it acquired a license that indemnifies its customers.

Red Hat was only one in a long line under the gun from DataTern. Others include Hotels.com, Bank of America, and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.

Red Hat has another patent infringement suit pending, from IP Innovation for 5,072,412.

Red Hat infringes numerous Microsoft patents, but, while having rattled its saber, Microsoft doesn't have the stomach to weather the storm that assertion against Red Hat would bring. The antitrust howl would be fierce, and whatever shard of goodwill that Microsoft may have in the Linux crowd would be lost. Microsoft managed to cut a patent licensing deal with Novell, another Linux vendor, with Microsoft essentially paying for the privilege of giving Novell patent licenses, but Red Hat has so far refused to bow.

Years ago, Patent Hawk worked on a project determining infringement of Microsoft patents by Linux vendors.

Posted by Patent Hawk at June 12, 2008 1:19 AM | Patents In Business


Does Red Hat infringe VALID M$ patents?
That may be another issue - from what I understand, most of M$'s patents are crap.
And add in KSR ...

Posted by: anonymousAgent at June 12, 2008 9:17 AM


Thanks for the question/good point.

The question of validity never arose during the Linux project. Validity was assumed.

My impression is that Microsoft patents, relatively speaking, are not crap, but KSR absolutely turned most patents to crap. Post-KSR, Microsoft probably has at least a few valid patents.

I seriously doubt we will ever see much of the Microsoft patent portfolio put to the test.

Posted by: Patent Hawk at June 12, 2008 11:47 AM