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Red Hat Enlists Community Help To Fight Patent Trolls 166

Stickster writes "Back in 2007, IP Innovation filed a lawsuit against Red Hat and Novell. IP Innovation is a subsidiary of Acacia Technologies. You may have heard of them — they're reported to be the most litigious patent troll in the USA, meaning they produce nothing of value other than money from those whom they sue (or threaten to sue) over patent issues. They're alleging infringement of patents on a user interface that has multiple workspaces. Hard to say just what they mean (which is often a problem in software patents), but it sounds a lot like functionality that pretty much all programmers and consumers use. That patent was filed back on March 25, 1987 by some folks at Xerox/PARC, which means that prior art dated before then is helpful — and art dated before March 25, 1986 is the most useful. (That means art found in a Linux distribution may not help, seeing as how Linus Torvalds first began the Linux kernel in 1991.) Red Hat has invited the community to join in the fight against the patent trolls by identifying prior art. They are coordinating efforts through the Post Issue Peer to Patent site, which is administered by the Center for Patent Innovations at the New York Law School, in conjunction with the US Patent and Trademark Office."
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Red Hat Enlists Community Help To Fight Patent Trolls

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  • Sorry, but... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Rusty pipe ( 1471075 ) on Saturday February 14, 2009 @09:25AM (#26855305)
    I am not going to fix the broken patent system of america.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 14, 2009 @09:39AM (#26855369) [] []
    They may want to patent the slashdot effect next, so an example of the prior art may be necessary.
  • Contact Groklaw... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Saturday February 14, 2009 @09:43AM (#26855389)

    For this kind of issues, make sure folks at Groklaw [] get to know fast. They are the only folks I know that will dig up facts fast. In the Novell/SCO case, One guy provided evidence dating back to 1971! By the way, SCO appears to have lost that case. Amazing.

  • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Saturday February 14, 2009 @10:01AM (#26855485)

    That's where the claims come in. The claims represent the boundaries of the "property" to which the patent lays claim. Forget about the abstract, forget about the detailed description - read the claims, and then use the specification to help you understand what the claims are talking about. Interpret the claims as broadly as is reasonable, given what the specification says.

    The claims are shown here [], and yes, there are a lot of them and they will make your head explode. Stick to the independent claims at first (the ones that don't say, for example, "The system of claim 1, wherein...").

    The trouble with prior art on this one is that the patent is so old. It was issued at the end of 1991, and it just expired in the past couple of months. Some Slashdotters weren't even born yet when this patent was issued, much less filed. Plus, you're not arguing invalidity of a patent issued to some fly-by-night company that develops crap and files applications on it - this was Xerox, and they typically have/had their shit together.

    In any case, good luck to the defendants on this one.

  • by SQL Error ( 16383 ) on Saturday February 14, 2009 @10:28AM (#26855619)

    X-Window (MIT, 1984)
    Apple Lisa (1983)
    Windows 1.0 (1985)

  • by Curmudgeonlyoldbloke ( 850482 ) on Saturday February 14, 2009 @11:37AM (#26855995)

    From reading the patent, it isn't a patent for a "GUI", multiple screens or even multiple windows - all of those predate 1985. What it appears to be is a patent for is what became "Xerox Rooms" - which was eventually offered as a Windows add-on around the early '90s.

    From the linked patent:
    "The user can invoke a switch between workspaces by selecting a display object called a door, and a back door to the previous workspace is created automatically so that the user is not trapped in a workspace".

    It seems an odd patent to try and hit Redhat with, because I can't think of any current GUI that uses anything close to the "Rooms" model. Something close to the "standard" GUI was available on Xerox commercial workstations in around 1985-1986, before this patent was issued (I remember them from college).

    The nearest that might qualify as "prior art" that I can think of is the display handling on some minicomputer workstations in the early 1980s (specifically Wang VS, but possibly others). You could just about make a claim for "multiple windows held in memory" and there being a "display object" which took you back the previous workspace. You'd struggle at calling it an "object-based user interface" though.

  • Re:Sorry, but... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 14, 2009 @02:23PM (#26857211)

    healthy drinks []

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun