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Linux Patent Infringement Lawsuit Filed Against Red Hat/Novell 473

walterbyrd writes "Just months after the last nail in SCO's case, and on the same day as Red Hat's brave words about patent intimidation, a company filed the first patent suit against the Linux operating system. IP Innovation LLC filed the claim against Red Hat and Novell over U.S. Patent No. 5,072,412. PJ points out there is prior art here: 'You might recall the patent was used in litigation against Apple in April 2007, and Beta News reported at the time that it's a 1991 Xerox PARC patent. But Ars Technica provided the detail that it references earlier patents going back to 1984.'"
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Linux Patent Infringement Lawsuit Filed Against Red Hat/Novell

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  • by tronicum ( 617382 ) * on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:29AM (#20952505)
    Those patents cover GUI patents, they apply to window managers that provide virtual desktops. It has nothing to do with the Linux Kernel itself.
    • by J0nne ( 924579 )
      I guess we'll all have to go back to the command line then... /me installs links
      • by hal9000(jr) ( 316943 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:58AM (#20952967)
        I guess we'll all have to go back to the command line then.

        But would it apply to screen? lol
    • Whether we like it or not, "linux" has almost from the start meant more than just a kernel.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by aichpvee ( 631243 )
        I like it!
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ls -la ( 937805 )

        Whether we like it or not, "linux" has almost from the start meant more than just a kernel.
        QFT, and people would do well to remember that without a GUI, Linux will get *nowhere* in the desktop market.
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by Tuoqui ( 1091447 )
      I guess Microsoft got Kernel mixed up with GUI. 1 Patent down, 234 more to go?
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by phoenixwade ( 997892 )

        I guess Microsoft got Kernel mixed up with GUI. 1 Patent down, 234 more to go?
        Is it flame bait to point out that this isn't a Microsoft lawsuit?

        (All the more so, because one of the companies Microsoft cut a deal with for patent lawsuit protection, Novel, is also named in this lawsuit)

      • by TheSciBoy ( 1050166 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @10:13AM (#20953253)

        Wrong. They're not attacking GNU/Linux. They are attacking companies that make money selling Linux. They're not after the people who won't pay for an operating system, they're after the people who will. This suit is against Redhat and Novell, who provide a system with a GUI, that GUI infringes on the patent.

        My question is, what product does this company sell that they can claim to have lost revenue on? Or is IP law so crap that there is no need to even have made an attempt at creating a product to be able to sue someone for damages? I mean, I can understand royalties, but damages?

        Also, it will be interesting to see when they informed Redhat and Novell of the infringement since they are suing for willful infringement.

        • by I'm Don Giovanni ( 598558 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @10:24AM (#20953421)
          I'm of the opinion that patents should only be enforced if the patent holder makes a good faith effort to sell products/services that use the patented technology OR the patent holder makes good faith effort to license the technology to others at a reasonable price or through cross-licensing deals, etc.

          I don't know what happened in this case. It could be that the patent holder asked Red Hat to license the patent for a fee and Red Hat refused. Given Red Hat's recent statements that suggest that they feel no obligation to honor patents (at least patents held by companies they don't like), it wouldn't surpsise me.
          • by ajs318 ( 655362 ) <> on Friday October 12, 2007 @11:51AM (#20955053)
            I'd go one further and say that patent licencing should be compulsory -- and licencing fees should be the same for every user. In fact, maybe it should be the patent office that sets the amount of the fees.

            Anyway, this particular patent will be struck down on examination -- it fails both the novelty and obviety tests (to say nothing of being invalid in most countries in the world). Red Hat should submit a motion that the case is entirely without merit and IP Innovation LLC are being vexatious litigants.
          • by khelek ( 560004 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @11:55AM (#20955139)
            Do you mind sharing which statements Red Hat made that "suggest that they feel no obligation to honor patents (at least patents held by companies they don't like)"? Because, if I'm not mistaken, Red Hat is the same company that pissed off a bunch of people because they took patents so seriously as to remove software that would cause potential patent problems (mp3 ring a bell?). Please don't confuse Red Hat's refusal to cave to empty saber rattling by Microsoft as a suggestion that they feel no obligation to honor patents. I think history will show differently.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rbanffy ( 584143 )
          I am very happy something like this happens before a lot of countries enact laws allowing the patenting of software. This lawsuit will help demonstrate the threat IP-only companies pose to genuine innovators and the chilling effect their existence can have on the IT industry as a whole.

          It's sad it will be the US IT industry that gets the most pain, but, in other countries, this "sacrifice" will allow life to go on and a case will be provided to show such stupid laws need to be completely avoided.

          the US will
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Yes, it just covers multiple workspaces. So, if Gnome and KDE just drop the very-cool workspace switcher, the problem goes away. Also, this patent seems to expire this year (it was filed in 1987, and granted in 1991), so we would only be without our cool workspace switcher for a few months. Not much here, really.
  • Follow the money (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:30AM (#20952513)
    Now that Microsoft have taken all they can from SCO FUD, they'll start another attack vector.
    • Re:Follow the money (Score:5, Informative)

      by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (bob_eissua)> on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:49AM (#20952815) Journal
      they'll start another attack vector.


      IP Innovation LLC is a subsidiary of Acacia, and Acacia recently appointed Brad Brunell, who worked for 16 years at Microsoft as general manager, intellectual property licensing. He's now a senior vice president. Other ex-Microsoft executives have also recently migrated to Acacia.

      Acacia are known as patent trolls.

      • Re:Follow the money (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Burz ( 138833 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @10:22AM (#20953395) Homepage Journal
        This comes right on the heels of Steve Ballmer just suggesting that patent trolls go after RedHat. It was in the same speech he made about their intent to threaten RedHat and get FOSS application developers to write for Windows 'instead'.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by BerntB ( 584621 )

        It seems to be time for IBM to sell a few hundred patents to a bunch of Patent troll companies, which then sue Microsoft...?

        The start of the patent wars seems to be similar to the cold war, when the super powers fought by proxy.

      • Re:Follow the money (Score:5, Informative)

        by snapp_action ( 864336 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @12:39PM (#20955923)

        Wow, after hearing that Acacia has anything to do with this, I am not surprised at all. I worked in the distance education department for a University a few years back. At that time, they were making rounds among the education industry, and sending letters asking for several hundred thousand dollars, or 5% of all profits made from a series of patents.

        The patents? "A system of distributing video and/or audio information employs digital signal processing to achieve high rates of data compression" over cable, tv, telephone, and as they were implying, the internet. Their claim was that anyone streaming video or sound needed to pay up. I mean, honestly, transferring compressed data over a medium!? And of course they didn't go after larger University's that flat out told them they wouldn't pay...

        Acacia is one of those companies at the bottom of the barrel. Even worse than SCO, because their whole business is suing over patents, like NTP.

        Here is the link if anyone's interested: []

    • Re:Follow the money (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TechForensics ( 944258 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:57AM (#20952949) Homepage Journal
      You're modded funny, but you're right on the money. This is a new attack from Microsoft as the Groklaw article makes plain. The interesting question is why MS is doing this by proxy, i.e., using straw men they encourage and abet. I seem to recall one provision of the GPL is that if you sue, you lose all rights to GPL code (and surely MS infringes that in places more than OSS tramples on MS patents, if at all). Microsoft is therefore avoiding losing those rights by doing indirectly what it cannot do directly.

      However, there is a principle in law (or Equity) that one cannot do indirectly what he cannot do directly. An interesting question for practicing lawyers (I am a retired one and not up on all of this) would be, is there a way to attribute the Plaintiff's actions to Microsoft, canceling their GPL rights? Would it in fact be too late to do this based on their provable support of SCO (the massive loans arranged by MS to keep SCO afloat)? I'd sure like to hear what Eben Moglen has to say about this.

  • Too Late (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Aethereal ( 1160051 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:32AM (#20952545)
    • ...Or Timely (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Burz ( 138833 )
      Consider that this lawsuit comes just as Vista is floundering and RedHat is set to release their desktop OS.
  • Saved me some effort (Score:3, Informative)

    by faloi ( 738831 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:32AM (#20952547)
    The linked article actually already has the guy coming on board from Microsoft to the patent troll company. I thought I might have to look for it myself. Teh Intraweb, is there anything it can't do?
    • Two guys. The IP guy awhile back, & the patent guy on July 1 2007.

      And no, the intraweb can't bring me coffee. My coffee maker ain't wired.

  • Its about time! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xzvf ( 924443 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:33AM (#20952551)
    Lawsuits are a part of business now. Hopefully all the companies that have a vested interest in Linux and Open Source will step up and clear up this issue and all patent problems. I can't imagine IBM, Oracle, HP and all the F-500 companies that use Linux allowing it to disappear or be damaged.
    • Re:Its about time! (Score:5, Informative)

      by ais523 ( 1172701 ) <ais523(524\)(525)x)> on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:40AM (#20952671)
      It could be more difficult than usual; IANAL, but one thing that often happens after a patent infringement claim is a counter-claim with another patent, and then a cross-licensing agreement is often reached to settle the situation. However, this may be a case of patent trolling [], where this means of protection doesn't work because the company who owns the original patent doesn't actually make anything related, and therefore cannot have any related patents. Of course, attacking the patent itself or showing that it's inapplicable still work, I think (and hope). Besides, software patents can't be enforced or don't exist in many countries (particularly in Europe), so a patent attack would be unlikely to get rid of Linux altogether.
      • Re:Its about time! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CmdrGravy ( 645153 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:56AM (#20952925) Homepage
        Yes, exactly. This particular company seems to be the very model of a patent troll company which doesn't do anything that defensive patent portfolios could be used against.

        This is exactly what Mr Ballmer said would happen and is the best weapon Microsoft can use in pushing their "Linux infringes patents" attack. Obviously if they were to bring any cases themselves they would be swamped under a wave of counterclaims from Linux friendly companies such as IBM and Novell so this way they have a proxy which cannot be stopped in such fashion and which on the face of it has nothing to do with Microsoft should there be any negative repercussions from the action. I'd expect to see a lot more of this sort thing from now on.

        Even if Red Hat go to court, win and have the patent thrown out ( which we hope they will ) it's still going to cost them a lot of money and quite likely drag on for a good long time sapping money and resources which Red Hat would otherwise be using to expand its business. This obviously is to Microsofts benefit and gives them a hook to hang their "Linux is tainted by illegal patents" hat on.

        In the worst case scenario Red Hat go to court, lose and the patent is validated costing Red Hat lots of money for damages and an on-going outlay if they're allowed to licence the patent. Even worse than that since Red Hat no doubt use a very similar version of whatever component of the Linux system that everyone else does it's going to be a lot easier for this company to get money from them too. Even worse than that is the situation for freely distributed Linux, obviously there's no one to pay licence fees to use the patent so it's possible that restrictions would somehow be placed on such free distributions ( not sure of the legal situation with one ). Clearly this would be a huge win for Microsoft.

        If this patent is thrown out then you can bet there will be hundreds more coming out of the woodwork each one carrying the risks outlined above if they're not thrown out and each one costing Linux companies money to defend against.

        As PJ says the real solution is for the US to harmonise it's patent rules with the rest of the world and cut support for all software patents because if what we're seeing now continues the US is going to lose out to other countries where such patent laws are not in effect and Linux can flourish.
        • Re:Its about time! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by ( 1108067 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @12:19PM (#20955571) Homepage Journal

          There is another alternative, which could happen ... all development moves off-shore. Heck, RedHat could just move almost everything to Europe and trade there. (Alan Cox refuses to visit the US because of the stupid software patent issues).

          Sell the core system in the US with from RedHat US with no Window Managers, and a link to repositories to download all the Window Managers you want, from software-patent-is-bad countries. Sell the full system everywhere else.

          This is just one more step for the US in its continual technological decline. Whole industries are already gone - ram, most hard drives, lcd screens. Why not almost all FLOSS development?

        • by Seraphim_72 ( 622457 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @02:50PM (#20958137)

          seems to be the very model of a patent troll company
          I am the very model of a modern patent troll company,
          I've information that I will hold for law suits that are dear to me,
          I know the kings of software, and I sue them quite hysterical
          From IBM to Red Hat , in order oh most technical;
          I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters about the SCO law suit,
          I understand the law, both the simple and the theoretical,
          About collecting payment I'm teeming with a lot o' news,
          With many cheerful facts about the demise of software use.
      • IP Innovation LLC (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Joce640k ( 829181 )
        often happens after a patent infringement claim is a counter-claim with another patent, and then a cross-licensing agreement is often reached to settle the situation

        That's the great thing about companies with names like "IP Innovation LLC"....they don't have any products so they can't possibly be infringing on anybody else's junk patents.

  • Interesting. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:34AM (#20952583)
    I'm going to enjoy watching this play out. It should be noted that this isn't against 'Linux' but appears to be against X... Or maybe KDE... Or Gnome... Or Trolltech's Qt... Or... I'm not really sure because the patent is so vague that it covers just about anything I can think of that does more than 1 thing on the screen at the same time. Even Clippy would violate this patent because it has an input box (workspace) in its dialog while Office is still on the screen.

    So they are Suing RedHat and Novell for using whatever it is that violates the patent. Isn't that a bit like suing Dell because Microsoft's OS infringes on a patent and Dell distributes it?
    • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by faloi ( 738831 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:39AM (#20952669)
      So they are Suing RedHat and Novell for using whatever it is that violates the patent. Isn't that a bit like suing Dell because Microsoft's OS infringes on a patent and Dell distributes it?

      You mean like investigating Dell because they sell hard drives that might infringe on a patent []?
    • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Constantine XVI ( 880691 ) <> on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:46AM (#20952775)
      It so happens that even Microsoft is violating this patent directly (EXE link warning) []
    • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by langelgjm ( 860756 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:51AM (#20952849) Journal

      It's good to see that the original inventors and holders of this patent will finally be compensated for their innovation.

      Oh wait... the company that holds the patent now (IP Innovation) has nothing to do with the original inventors? Well, I hope any damages they are awarded will encourage them to innovate.

      Our patent system is broken.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Andrewkov ( 140579 )
        Well, presumably IP Innovation had to buy the patent from somebody, so the original inventory should have been paid already.

        But still, I agree that companies like IP Innovation shouldn't be able to extort money from companies after waiting so many years for a technology to become ubiquitous.
      • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by burnin1965 ( 535071 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @11:04AM (#20954157) Homepage

        Our patent system is broken.

        I've come to realize that this is a misconception. The patent system isn't broken, corrupt, or overwhelmed. Unfortunately, it is working exactly as it was designed.

        From an early age we are taught idealist interpretations of patent law and how it is a wonderful tool to spur innovation, research, business, etc. and provide a level playing field for the little entrepreneur. However, when confronted with the reality of what patent law is, a forced impedement on human nature to invent and create which turns out to be contradictory to the idealistic intent, it is assumed it must be because it is broken. []

        In order of time, I should have mentioned before, that having, in 1742, invented an open stove for the better warming of rooms, and at the same time saving fuel, as the fresh air admitted was warmed in entering, I made a present of the model to Mr. Robert Grace, one of my early friends, who, having an iron-furnace, found the casting of the plates for these stoves a profitable thing, as they were growing in demand. To promote that demand, I wrote and published a pamphlet, entitled "An Account of the new-invented Pennsylvania Fireplaces; wherein their Construction and Manner of Operation is particularly explained; their Advantages above every other Method of warming Rooms demonstrated; and all Objections that have been raised against the Use of them answered and obviated," etc. This pamphlet had a good effect. Gov'r. Thomas was so pleas'd with the construction of this stove, as described in it, that he offered to give me a patent for the sole vending of them for a term of years; but I declin'd it from a principle which has ever weighed with me on such occasions, viz., That, as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.

        An ironmonger in London however, assuming a good deal of my pamphlet, and working it up into his own, and making some small changes in the machine, which rather hurt its operation, got a patent for it there, and made, as I was told, a little fortune by it. And this is not the only instance of patents taken out for my inventions by others, tho' not always with the same success, which I never contested, as having no desire of profiting by patents myself, and hating disputes. The use of these fireplaces in very many houses, both of this and the neighbouring colonies, has been, and is, a great saving of wood to the inhabitants.

        - Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography
        Ben knew from the beginning that the patent system was a farce and would have unintended consequences and from its inception there are accounts of its use to enrich those who do not create or to impede a competitive free market.

        If Ben was around today I'm sure he would approve of the open source movement and he would likely be called a smelly long haired communist and have chairs thrown at him.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by qortra ( 591818 )
      It is exactly like that. Except that Microsoft has deep pockets and would be a perfectly suitable candidate.

      Patent troll rule #1: Go after the deep pockets.
      Patent troll rule #2: Go after the high profile lawsuit. When more notable companies get sued, you get more press, and therefore more respectability when you enter the negotiating table (their bread and butter is settlements).

      It should be noted, however, that a very decent amount of Gnome development goes on at Novell, so that target isn't so ba
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by orclevegam ( 940336 )

        Gnomes vs Trolls; how cool is this?
        Thanks, thanks for ruining this for me. I was all gung-ho to see some patent trolls get beat down when you had to make the other party Gnomes. Much as I hate Trolls of all kinds, I loath Gnomes. They're just so punt-able you can't help but want to kick them.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by qortra ( 591818 )

          I loath Gnomes [...] you can't help but want to kick them
          Apparently, IP Innovation LLC feels the same way.
    • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Informative)

      by dhj ( 110274 ) * on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:53AM (#20952901)
      It's actually not as vague as "multiple windows visible for application" which Clippy would violate. The patent is on the ability of share windows/views between multiple workspaces. So the fact that your application toolbar / "start menu" shows up in multiple workspaces would be a violation of this patent. FYI, ctl-alt-left,right arrow to switch between workspaces in gnome. Also right click the window-title "always on visible workspace" option is a violation of this patent. It's disgusting that companies can buy these patents for the sole purpose of suing people. If Redhat disabled this feature I doubt it would impact a significant portion of the users. Most window managers implement it in some form.
      • by Aladrin ( 926209 )
        Oh, I read that backwards, thanks. Yeah, that's quite a bit more specific than I thought.

        I don't think KDE supports that feature with Kicker, so KDE appears to be fine, but Gnome will have to defend themselves. (Or anyone using Gnome.) I've heard people wishing KDE supported it and wondered why they didn't. Now I wonder if this is why... I somehow doubt it, though.

        I seem to recall that Windows can make the taskbar span all the desktops, but it's several views of the same item, but viewing a different p
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dilute ( 74234 )
        Well, just referring to the first claim, I think you also have to account for the language at the end: "the display object means generating the first and second display objects so that the second display object is perceptible as the same tool as the first display object when the second workspace is presented after the first workspace."

        In other words (quoting again, this time from the description): "A display system object can be linked to more than one workspace, to provide a respective tool in each of thos
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mce ( 509 ) *

        Vtwm has had this since at least February 1992. Admittedly that's later than the 1991 patent date, but with some further digging into history, vtwm might stil become prior art. I have memories of using it earlier than that, at least.

        In any case, the fact that nobody filed suit against the vtwm developers/distributors for over 15 years shows that the owners for a very long time didn't exploit their patent the way they should have.

    • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by russ1337 ( 938915 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @10:01AM (#20953033)
      All this suing shenanigans scares the crap out of me ever starting a business. Become semi-successful and you end up with all the patent trolls banging at your door.

    • So they are Suing RedHat and Novell for using whatever it is that violates the patent. Isn't that a bit like suing Dell because Microsoft's OS infringes on a patent and Dell distributes it?

      No, patent trolls go after the deepest pockets. A better analogy would be going after Honda because the third party that makes their windshield glass infringes on a glassmaking patent.

    • Re:Interesting. (Score:4, Informative)

      by niiler ( 716140 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @10:13AM (#20953261) Journal
      I, for one, would think that the ideas inherent in the X-server (which had its predecessors []) would automatically count as prior art as together they imply a multiple desktop functionality existent in the early 1980s if not late 1970s.
    • So they are Suing RedHat and Novell for using whatever it is that violates the patent.

      It's a common legal tactic that I believe is called the "Deep Pockets Theory". You sue the people with money (deep pockets) who are barely involved in the issue because the real offender can't pay you off. They know that they can't get any money from KDE and GNOME developers, so they go after the companies that use these products. Interestingly enough, they did not choose to sue Sun, who I believe distributes GNOME wi
  • by javilon ( 99157 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:37AM (#20952623) Homepage
    After this attack, it is clear that changing the EU law and allowing software patents becomes much more difficult.

    There are lots of people in EU using linux distributions without any legal concerns that would be very damaged the very day that EU suddenly recognizes this troll patent.
  • The patent race has begun.

    Anyone taking bets on how long it will take for the OS community to provide a workaround?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FudRucker ( 866063 )
      a workaround wont be necessary, there is prior art...

      maybe you can write a letter to the editor...
  • by Pfhortytwo ( 1024837 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:41AM (#20952689)
    Wasn't [] created to combat this sort of event? What happens if the linux camp responds with suites of their own? Looking at OIN's portfolio, some of those patents look rather weighty. Not to mention that Novell, IBM, Redhat, and Sony all support linux and all have extremely large portfolios of their own. Did the principle of M.A.D. that the industry has relied on to keep from imploding just fly out the window? [IANAL, Rampant Speculation, etc, etc]
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by EzInKy ( 115248 )
      From a link [] provided in the Groklaw article:

      What I have found, though, is astounding. Acacia has sued hundreds of defendants in 213 different patent lawsuits brought by 36 different Acacia subsidiaries. That's right - they have sued in 36 different names! By doing so, Acacia, a publicly traded company, has increased its market cap by tenfold, going from a 35M company in early 2003 to a 350M company today.

      This company doesn't make anything, it is a patent troll pure and simple.
    • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:54AM (#20952915)
      M.A.D. is simply a fancy acronym for an idea which has been around for years, and it faces the same problems today as it always did.

      Edmund Blackadder summed it up beautifully:

      Edmund: You see, Baldrick, in order to prevent war in Europe, two superblocs
              developed: us, the French and the Russians on one side, and the
              Germans and Austro-Hungary on the other. The idea was to have two
              vast opposing armies, each acting as the other's deterrent. That way
              there could never be a war.

      Baldrick: But this is a sort of a war, isn't it, sir?

      Edmund: Yes, that's right. You see, there was a tiny flaw in the plan.

      George: What was that, sir?

      Edmund: It was bollocks.
    • Bit of a bummer, but IP Innovation is a patent troll - which is to say they have no products to infringe patents and are thus immune to the vast patent portfolios of Novell, IBM, OIN etc.

      Perhaps if one could patent patent-trolling? Can you patent business methodologies under the whacky-fun US system?
    • by crush ( 19364 )
      OIN isn't any use in this situation. The OIN helps to create a Mexican standoff with other companies which might want to use patents to advance their businesses at the expense of other competitors. The important thing is that the aggressors also produce software in that scenario. So it cools down the relationship between Sony, IBM, Sun, Microsoft, Intel, Red Hat, Novell etc and stops them from attacking each other directly.

      In this case however the aggressor does not make software. They're just a paten

  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:41AM (#20952699) Homepage
    All patents have to (or at least are supposed to) list similar but distinct prior art, in order to distinguish their own unique invention. You can't point to the disclosed prior inventions on the patent application itself and go "Ah hah, gotcha!". I mean, unless you like to pretend that you're a lawyer on Slashdot.
  • by Trevin ( 570491 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:45AM (#20952755) Homepage
    This patent is old, but not yet past the patent expiration date (that's 21 years, isn't it?), so it seems to pre-date any prior art I can think of. That seems to make it plausible.

    But this patent was granted to Xerox, NOT "IP Innovation LLC". So why the hell is this 3rd party suing over a patent it wasn't granted?

    The content of this patent is given in a language that is so obtuse that I can't tell whether it's describing something that was obvious, or if it's describing a single large virtual desktop, or if it's talking about something completely different than the "workspaces" we're used to seeing today. And I really don't have the time this morning to try deciphering it.
  • An Acacia subsidiary (Score:5, Informative)

    by BiggerIsBetter ( 682164 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:45AM (#20952759)
    Apparently IP Innovations LLC is a subsidiary of Acacia, one of the largest patent troll groups around according to Troll Tracker []. IP Innovations has only been around since 2002 with 5 employees and revenues less than $1 million, according to their listing on Fedvendor [], so it's quite perverse to be trying to sue over a patent issued to somebody else in 1991...
  • But wait... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:47AM (#20952787) Homepage Journal

    So you mean that making a patent deal with Microsoft doesn't really protect Novell from patent infringment suits? Well, isn't that the strangest thing...

    I think Novell is about to figure out that no matter how you look at it, they got the short end of the stick in the Microsoft deal. They paid a lot of money so that firms other than Microsoft could sue them for patent infringement. Wonder if they'll just pay off this company like they did Microsoft. Wonder if they can afford to pay off all of the companies that will bring patent infringement suits against them.

    What a way to paint a big, red, sue-me-for-patent-infringement-target on their company.

  • The more companies and people they sue successfully, the better their chances are.. right?
    So, perhaps they are going after what they perceive as the 'weaker targets' in order to solidify this?

    So, they go after red hat and novell, hoping they will pay...
    IBM, etc have far more cash and they are not going after them because they would get pummeled into the ground.

    Smells like a pump and dump, or a pump and sell deal with this patent troll, especially with the M$ goon with them.
  • by mrjb ( 547783 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @10:01AM (#20953031)
    ...they better have deep pockets.
  • Rumor has it Darl McBride can be seen begging for change outside the doors of IP Innovation LLC.
  • ...I'm off to patent a system in which you use a circuit board covered with lettered tiles that complete circuits to input data into a PC. But it's totally not the same as the keyboard! Until, of course, I want to sue the people who make keyboards for infringing on my patent. Next up: a clear, tasteless liquid composed of hydrogen and oxygen atoms in a 2-to-1 ratio...I'll see you in court, God!
  • I am talking about Microsoft's spin machine (read Ballmer). They (Microsoft), are going to spin this whole thing as a Linux issue yet it isn't as far as I understand. The overall result will be some kind of benefit to them.
  • by laing ( 303349 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @10:32AM (#20953561)
    I'm probably a bit older than your average /.'er so I remember lots of applications that 'violate' this patent. There was a great task switcher called Desqview (Quarterdeck software) too. Toward the end they made a product called "Desqview X" which actually supported the X-window protocol directly under DOS.

    Of course Sun had stuff that predates this too. Their Open Look Window Manager (olwm) was around for quite a while before this. Olwm was the first window manager that I used under Linux too. That would have been in 1991 or so which may or may not pre-date the patent.

    This space for rent
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by niiler ( 716140 )
      I also remember Open Look. See here [] for history. It was around in the 1980s and predates the patent.
  • by KlomDark ( 6370 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @10:43AM (#20953745) Homepage Journal
    Note that in the filing they name the products as "RedHat Linux", and for the two Novell products, they spell it "Linex". Almost like they are giving Novell a way out on a legal technicality. People have gotten out of speeding tickets over a mispelled name before, so why not here?

    "I'm sorry your honor, but we do not produce a product called Linex. We do however have a product called Linux"

    "Case dismissed!"

  • by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @11:03AM (#20954125) Homepage Journal
    Let us assume for a moment that Microsoft-- er, I mean IP Innovation LLC wins this case. And let us assume that Red Hat and other Linux distributors are then forced to pay a patent royalty for every copy of the operating system that they sell.

    Read that again. Every copy that they sell.

    Could this potentially be a really good precedent? It could end up setting the stage for an industry in which open source operating systems can freely include patented technologies, because the only parties who need be concerned about patents are the ones who are selling it. This could end up making the whole patent problem much less of a concern. Go ahead and put that MP3 decoder in, for example. Fedora distributes it for free. CentOS distributes it for free. Red Hat Enterprise charges for it, and pays the royalty to Frauhofer.

    Yes, software patents are bullshit, including this one. But imagine how cool it would be if this precedent were established, and free operating systems like Ubuntu could bundle all those codecs by default, because the royalty requirement only applies when money changes hands for an operating system license.
  • Not to worry, much (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @11:06AM (#20954181) Homepage

    Reasons not to worry:

    • It doesn't affect servers. X-Windows, maybe.
    • There's probably prior art.
    • The patent expires in 2008 anyway. (For patents issued in that period, it's 20 years after filing or 17 years after issue, whichever is later. For this patent, it's 17 years after issue.)

    I doubt that Microsoft is behind this. It's not one of their patents, and it's a weak claim. If Microsoft does something with patents, it's likely to involve something that has to be Microsoft-compatible, like Samba or Wine.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It's not one of their patents, and it's a weak claim.

      It's called a smoke screen. Anything to give Linux/Redhat bad publicity.
  • by Tired and Emotional ( 750842 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @11:36AM (#20954717)
    According to Wikipedia, X first appeared in 1984 and X11, which certainly had the features claimed in the Patent (I have not used anything earlier), appeared in 1987.

    There was also a company called 3 Rivers Systems (I think) that was selling windows based machines somewhat before the Lisa was demonstrated. I just googled it - it was called the PERQ and appears to have come out in 1979, so looks like they had been around a while when I saw one. They were way ahead of what the Lisa could do, BTW. This may not be prior art because it seems the designer came out of Xerox Parc but it could also mean that it produces a timeliness of filing defense.

    BTW, isn't there law or case law about defending patents in a timely manner? Can someone comment on how that applies here?

  • by Vexorian ( 959249 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @01:12PM (#20956551)

    It all appears MS is making up a new SCO.

    A rational question is to ask "why also Novell"? Yes, we all know Novell and MS are buddies and all so this is a reason to think MS is not behind this lawsuit.

    Imho what's going to happen is that Novell will be VERY collaborative and willing to accept to pay royalties for this BS patent, the game will be make Red Hat play alone. The expected aftermath (for MS-Novell) would be to make Red Hat look like a rogue company that does not respect IP. And yes, thanks to Novell the case will be much harder to solve for Red Hat than before, probably Novell will rush in making a deal so there's precedent...

    Laugh at the ridiculous theory all you want, I just hope Novell does not prove me right on this one. But if they do, then I hope nobody will argue to me whose side Novell is playing for.

    • by random coward ( 527722 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @01:28PM (#20956809)
      Novell could buy a patent license but then they either violate the software license or everyone else gets to use their patent license without having to buy their own.

      GPL prevents the distrubution without a license that would be passed right along to Redhat and its customers for free. Besided the patent is more about XWindows/KDE/Gnome than it is about Linux. Sun is the one going to be hurting on this; They use Gnome for Solaris and that is GPL'd. They wont be able to ship Solaris without a license that can then be used by everyone for free, even those who are not Sun customers. The Linux kernel doesn't have a workspace interface; thats a userspace program.

  • by SQLz ( 564901 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @02:55PM (#20958237) Homepage Journal
    This is why the Microsoft patent deals with Linux vendors are so important and why Novell F-ed everything. They are playing on both sides. Basically, by signing these deals with Linux vendors they herd a lot of companies toward those vendors. That gives them a target, but they can't directly attack it. At the same time, they secretly help patent trolls to attack those Linux vendors, leaving the customer with a bad taste in their mouth. The customer had switched to Novell for "protection", and then Novell gets slapped with an injunction. "Linux isn't safe" they read in the press and hey go running back to Microsoft.

Real Programmers don't write in PL/I. PL/I is for programmers who can't decide whether to write in COBOL or FORTRAN.