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Red Hat Prevails Against Patent Troll Acacia 89

Posted by Soulskill
from the isn't-it-iconic dept.
walterbyrd writes with news that Red Hat and Novell have won a patent case brought by a subsidiary of Acacia Research Corporation. The company had "accused Red Hat and Novell of infringing three patents that cover a computer-based graphical user interface that spans multiple workplaces, and lets users access icons remotely, according to court documents. A jury in Marshall, Texas, yesterday sided with Red Hat and Novell's defense that the patents were invalid." Red Hat's Michael Cunningham said, "The jury knocked out three invalid patents that were masquerading as a new and important inventions, when they were not. We appreciate the jury's wisdom and remain committed to providing value to our customers, including through our Open Source Assurance program. We also remain stalwart in resisting bogus shakedown tactics."
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Red Hat Prevails Against Patent Troll Acacia

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  • Way to go Red Hat! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bearhouse (1034238) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @10:42AM (#32056018)

    We appreciate the jury's wisdom and remain committed to providing value to our customers, including through our Open Source Assurance program. We also remain stalwart in resisting bogus shakedown tactics.

    Exactly why you should get your customers to pay RH for support, as I encourage mine to do.
    'Free' software does not mean 'without cost'. The FOSS community needs people like RH, (urm, OK, and the slightly less 'not evil' IBM), helping out.

    There's much discussion here & elsewhere about how to fix the broken US patent system.
    How about changing the law so that punitive damages could be awarded against blatant patent trolls such as Acacia? (Don't get me started about the cynical, useless bastards at SCO).
    Better still, how about making 'stifling innovation through frivolous patent suits' a Federal / criminal offense?

  • by larry bagina (561269) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @10:47AM (#32056040) Journal

    Better still, how about making 'stifling innovation through frivolous patent suits' a Federal / criminal offense?

    Just what we need, a law to compensate for the failure of the federal employees at the patent office.

  • patent trolling (Score:2, Interesting)

    by portnux (630256) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @11:05AM (#32056150)
    Since the entire concept of patents is to support innovation, why not give patent a specific and limited amount of time to actually incorporate their ideas and if that isn't met the patent is invalidated? This I think would at least limit patent trolling.
  • by jedidiah (1196) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @11:18AM (#32056232) Homepage

    Based on the information, it looks like Acacia was trying to claim ownership on things that have been done by Unix since before Acacia ever existed.

    Perhaps when there are consumer products that classify as prior art East Texas finally get the hint.

  • Re:patent trolling (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Theaetetus (590071) <<theaetetus.slashdot> <at> <gmail.com>> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @11:26AM (#32056298) Homepage Journal

    Since the entire concept of patents is to support innovation, why not give patent a specific and limited amount of time to actually incorporate their ideas and if that isn't met the patent is invalidated? This I think would at least limit patent trolling.

    Would be tough... Patents are a property right. We don't normally take peoples' property away if they're not using it in ways that we'd like, but maybe you could make an argument under Kelo v. City of New London that it's an eminent domain taking. Plus, it wouldn't be invalidating the patent - it would be assigning it to the government, who then releases it free into the public domain.

  • by nextekcarl (1402899) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @11:51AM (#32056474)

    Anyone with money and a product or service (to some extent) has something to fear from patent trolls. The only defense is to have enough money to last through a trial, and that's only sometimes successful. I think we have a problem here in that patents are not screened well enough at the patent office. If I had a patent, I'd want to feel extremely confidant that it won't be invalidated by a court. And if I avoid infringing others patents, I'd want to be very confident that I'm not just avoiding invalid patents (waste of time and effort). But most of all (as a consumer), I'd want to be very confident that patents are actually promoting the progress of science and the useful arts. I have little to no confidence that any of these things are true now.

  • I'd like to (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zogger (617870) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:11PM (#32056616) Homepage Journal

    The same way that MS makes a few bucks..coming preinstalled on PCs. The consumer pays for the software, but never really sees it either the way it is packaged. I have no idea why red hat and canonical don't just sell computers, with their software preinstalled, guaranteed to "just work". Both companies are large enough to fund production runs of computers and get good wholesale prices over in asia, so they could be cost competitive. Heck, they could gauge interest in advance just by running a poll on their support forums to see if people might be interested, what types of hardware, what they thought would be a fair price, etc.

  • by cetialphav (246516) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:33PM (#32056800)

    I hate to defend these guys because what they do is pretty sleazy, but "patent trolls" do serve a purpose. They create a market of selling IP. For those who believe that IP encourages innovation (I'm not one of them), then the existence of patent trolls means someone can invent something and have a buyer for the rights to that invention even if no one wants to market the product.

    For example, say I invent a highly efficient electric car. This upsets a lot of existing businesses so it may be very hard for me to productize it. I may know that my invention will eventually win out, but I can't afford to wait that long. Well, I can sell this to someone who is willing to wait and profit from this.

    The stories that generally show up on Slashdot are generally shake down schemes that take vague, poorly done patents and apply them to unwarranted things to make a quick buck. But that doesn't mean that everyone who is trying to profit from the patent system is a con artist.

  • Re:Texas and patents (Score:5, Interesting)

    by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @03:43PM (#32058394) Homepage

    Whoa. Did I just read "Marshall, TX" and "patents were invalid" in the same sentence? Someone should check that the earth's polarity just didn't go through a reversal

    Defendants have been doing well in patent suits in Texas for a few years. The notion that EDT somehow unduly favors plaintiffs is a myth.

    Note that the expected outcome of a patent suit is a win for plaintiffs, pretty much in any district, for the simple reason that it is plaintiffs who decide to bring suit. It costs a lot of time and money to get a case to the point of filing a patent suit, so the only ones that make it to court are ones where the plaintiff has spent considerable effort in determining that they have a decent chance of winning.

    Plaintiffs choose EDT not because they think it favors them. They choose it because many other plaintiffs chose it, and so the courts there have experience with patent litigation. Patent litigation is complex, so both plaintiffs and defendants really want judges who are experienced in it.

    Of course, that raises the question of how EDT got started in patents in the first place. I believe that it started when a particular judge there, with a background in computer programming, worked on a complex patent case as a lawyer, before he became a judge. He enjoyed the challenge, and when he became a judge, he made it a point to try to be assigned any patent cases that came up in EDT. That in turn caused more people to file in EDT, and so on.

    Another factor is that there is not much federal crime going on in EDT. Patent suits are civil, not criminal. Criminal cases take priority over civil cases, because of the Constitutional right to a speedy trial in criminal cases. In a district with a busy criminal element (and the braindead "war on drugs" has ensured that there is a steady supply of federal crime in many districts), it can take years to get court time for a civil case. Hence, plaintiffs seek out districts that have light criminal calendars.

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