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03 May 2010, 15:39

Patent suit against Red Hat and Novell fails

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At a US federal court in Marshall, Texas, Red Hat and Novell have won a legal victory in a dispute that started in 2007 about intellectual property rights. The jury found that several of the charges brought against the two Linux distributors by patent licensing firms were unfounded. As Red Hat announced on Friday, the patents were found to be "invalid and worthless." The jury found that the three patents were not "important inventions" as had been claimed.

Part of Patent 5,072,412
IP Innovation, a subsidiary of the Acacia Technologies Group, joined forces with the Technology Licensing Corporation in filing the charges. The two firms specialize in the purchasing and enforcing of technical patents. The case mainly revolved around patents granted to Xerox in 1991 under US number 5,072,412. The patents concerned the concept of multiple working areas on a display with the option of displaying one window on multiple workspaces. This function has been a standard for several years now on X Window System (X11), the basis for almost all Unix and Linux desktops. The plaintiffs used almost identical patents, 5,394,521 from 1995 and 5,533,183 from 1996, in their case.

According to Groklaw, the court also had trouble with the requested calculation of damages. The plaintiffs demanded license costs for all versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise sold based on the entire value of the sales. But Judge Rader pointed out a previous case, in which it was found that the patented technology had to be essential for customer demand. The court did not feel that that requirement was met here because Workspaces is only one of more than 1,000 features in Linux distributions – and one of the less important ones at that as a large number of users never utilise it. (Stefan Krempl)


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