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Android Patents The Courts Linux

Google Loses Bedrock Suit, All Linux May Infringe 347

blair1q writes "CNet reports that Google has lost the lawsuit brought by Bedrock, for infringing on Patent 5,893,120, 'Methods and apparatus for information storage and retrieval using a hashing technique with external chaining and on-the-fly removal of expired data,' and has exposed the Linux kernel, in which the infringing code reportedly appears, to liability for patent-license fees. Red Hat also participated in the suit, arguing that the patent was invalid, but the court decided otherwise."
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Google Loses Bedrock Suit, All Linux May Infringe

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  • by walterbyrd ( 182728 ) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @06:24PM (#35900782)

    Apparently the company is owned by an East Texas lawyer, and does not do anything except file patent lawsuits against everybody.

    Patent Litigation Weekly: PubPat and "Patent Troll" Make Strange Bedfellows

    Meanwhile, it's not unusual that a patent-enforcement company recently set up in East Texas would file suit there this week against ten Internet-based and software companies. Nor is it unusual that Texas corporate records show the company is owned by an erstwhile big-firm lawyer, in this case David Garrod, formerly of Goodwin Procter.


    Here is a sad, 2009 slashdot article about the company.

    Patent Trolls Target Small East Texas Companies

    > Posted by kdawson on Friday July 24 2009, @09:14AM
    > from the patently-absurd dept.
    > An anonymous reader writes "In a sign that patent trolls are getting desperate to keep their cases in East Texas — long known as the friendliest venue for their claims — some have taken to suing tiny, no-name companies that are run by East Texas residents. The hope is that, if at least one defendant is located in East Texas, the judge will keep the entire case there. Nate Neel, a Longview, Texas resident with a small open source software company called CitiWare, was sued by Bedrock Computer Technologies in June despite (he claims) having no customers or other meaningful operations of any kind. In response, Mr. Neel has posted a strongly worded letter to Bedrock's attorneys on his Web site. It will be interesting to see how East Texas judges respond to this abuse of process perpetrated against their own residents."


    BTW: the F/OSS company, CitiWare, is no longer in business. Sued of existence?

    Although I don't trust Florian Mueller any further than I can spit, I think it may be informative to read his blog post on the subject. Florian does provide court records, and good description of the patent in question.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 21, 2011 @06:33PM (#35900872)

    Nowadays I don't believe that MS is the enemy.

    Apple has much to lose from the advancement of Linux with Google's Droid OS.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 21, 2011 @06:37PM (#35900910)

    If only Florian didn't spin everything to his own personal vendetta... I might actually read his articles.

    But he ducks and weaves and picks out all the wrong facts to focus on... And gets it entirely wrong.

    As far as the linux kernel goes? They've picked a very specific release train. 2.4.22, which came out in 25-Aug-2003 .

    So, there's really nothing prior to that which offends the patent? Given the generic elevator/tree description of the patent, i find it very hard to believe.

    I also note that they don't call out what code actually offends, so there's no way to track down when it specifically came into being -
    but of course, that's useful when you don't want to call attention to the fact that the code has been in place longer than the patent has been around....

  • by tgatliff ( 311583 ) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @06:44PM (#35900994)

    Look on the bright side... Hopefully this will finally get the big companies to realize the current absurdity in the patent system, and push their paid for politicians to reform the system. Their practice of building a war chests of patents does little when you have a someone like this who (like wall street and finance in general) builds nothing and has no productive business function.

  • Groklaw... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aapold ( 753705 ) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @06:45PM (#35901000) Homepage Journal
    Cancel that retirement party
  • Re:Um, wtf? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @07:02PM (#35901134)

    Yep that's exactly what happens when you allow patents on raw ideas rather than specific and detailed implementations. No software patent should be valid without the source code detailing the implementation where simply changing code to work differently completely avoids the patent. Of course if that was the case nearly every software patent would be gone with the exception of things like the RSA patents where changing the code would make it no longer work.

    The problem with the patent office is that when they started allowing companies to patent raw ideas in the form of software and business method patents suddenly you could get a patent for an idea with no implementation, make it as vague as possible and then sue everyone. And that's exactly what's been happening and getting more and more common. It's the reason the courts are being overwhelmed with patent suits and it's also the reason the patent office is being swarmed with patent applications. Reinforce the old rule that requires that the patent detail a specific implementation (and in the case of a software patent that means the source code is part of the patent) and much of the problems with the patent system will go away. The side benefit is all but the most important and innovative software inventions are no longer patentable and business method patents go away entirely.

    Ah but we can hope the upcoming patent cases before the Supreme reach exactly this conclusion and reverse the nastiness the court created when they essentially allowed business method patents by invalidating previous tests. The only valid patent system is one that deals in specific implementations.

  • by Doctor_Jest ( 688315 ) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @07:41PM (#35901434)

    I'm certain this will get quashed in appeal when a real court hears it. :) (East Texas is really just Western Arkansas, only with more teeth, but the same amount of sister-love......)

  • Re:Um, wtf? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by VortexCortex ( 1117377 ) <VortexCortex.project-retrograde@com> on Thursday April 21, 2011 @07:55PM (#35901536)

    methods and apparatus for information storage and retrieval using a hashing technique with external chaining and on-the-fly removal of expired data.

    information storage and retrieval - nothing new here. using a hashing technique - nothing new here with external chaining - using what?

    Using a linked list that the hash bucket points to -- hence, external chaining... Yep, nothing new here, standard hash table practice, as opposed to moving the collision to a different unoccupied bucket.

    and on-the-fly removal of expired data - "on-the-fly" is a nice buzzword, but this is also nothing new.

    I built a connection to player# firewall/database for a simple game server in 1996 (patent filed in 1997). I used a single hash table to store valid open connections and blocked connections. The packed IP address was used as the key (hashed), and an external linked list per hash bucket was used to resolve collisions. If more than one connection mapped to a bucket, it was added to the bucket's external linked list. Each connection (linked list item) had an IP address, port#, validity flag, and time-stamp; The later I used to automatically remove expired connections -- as I traversed the hash table. HOW IS THIS NOT BLOODY OBVIOUS to a professional skilled in the art of hash tables and faced with the problem of expiring bucket entries?! The patent is invalid.

    The patent is clearly in violation of my prior art, and doubtlessly many thousands of other's. Fortunately, my source code for that BS game is closed -- no patent troll can figure out the method I'm using and sue me..... The patent (troll) system makes it more beneficial for me to hide innovation -- The opposite of it's intended goal. Linux source code is open, ergo, a broad target for trolls.

    So apparently we can just mix and match random old techniques, and call it innovation and get it patented?

    Yep. Apparently that's what they did. If someone else hasn't already patented it, you'll get a patent for it, no matter how obvious. The obviousness clause is not actually applied to patents. The patent database is searched for prior art, and applications granted if none is found.

    What I find interesting is the "Method AND Apparatus" terms that all these software patents must use in order to link them to hardware and thus make them patentable -- Without the apparatus, they are not patentable.

    A patent is public information, the detailed description is required to be published, no doubt in a textual form.

    An "infringing" bit of open source software source code is simply a detailed description of a patent. Ergo, source code must not actually be infringing since it is not an apparatus, it is simply performing the same exact task that a patent claim performs -- describing the patented method in detail.

    If a translation from the patent claim text to source code text is not an infringement, then a binary representation of such text must also not be an infringement -- A PDF displaying example source code that allegedly infringes a patent dose not itself infringe the patent -- It's just a document / file...

    Compiling source code is merely translating it into another binary representation, just like translating a patent claim into example source code is not an infringement, and the PDF translation is not an infringement, a binary executable translation is not an infringement either!

    Only when you add the apparatus to the method by running the software should the patent be enforcible. Prior to running the executable code the software is purely a description of the method employed.

    A patent suit must not be able force the source code of a "patent infringing" open source project to be taken down -- Otherwise, we must also remove from public view ALL PUBLIC PATENT information.

    Distribution of a PDF that descri

  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @09:25PM (#35902474)

    I believe that chaining hash tables is somewhere in Knuth. Which means that it came out before 1980. Yes, on page 507 of volume 3 he talks about "search methods commonly known as hashing or scatter search", so these were COMMON in 1973.

    You'd think that one of the 10,000 uber-geniuses at Google would have noticed that and brought it to the attention of their lawyers.

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @09:33PM (#35902546) Journal

    I think the biggest problem with outfits like Google is that they're populated by guys in their 20s and 30s who seem to think that everyone worked with abacuses and vacuum tubes prior to 1990, and little realize the monumental amount of R&D and computing theory done in the 60s and 70s. Guys out of labs at IBM, MIT and Bell pretty much thought up one way or another the vast amount of "new technology" that everyone uses today. Maybe instead of hiring legal guns and relying on the non-existent historical perspective of a lot of coders and software engineers being pumped out today, guys like Google when going against patent trolls should roll out the old guns from that heady era when so many of these algorithms and approaches were developed. That way, when some evil patent attorney declares "My clients invented this in 1996" some old dude from MIT can slap down his thesis from 1968 and say "Fuck you, you lying cunt, me and the boys dreamed that one up over a hash pipe."

  • by starfishsystems ( 834319 ) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @10:16PM (#35902892) Homepage
    I still would not be at all surprised to find prior art.

    I wouldn't either. Hash tables with linked lists are in my undergrad notes from 1977. It's in every curriculum, I'm sure.

    Oh, yes, the patent also involves garbage collection on the fly. That reminds me, Hans Koomen and I did a implementation of Interlisp right around then too. It had that. I forget where we picked up the algorithm, it was so long ago, but I remember thinking how great it was that the principles had already been developed by the time we needed them.

    Those were the days when people were still using rotary-dial telephones, mind you. The patent in question was granted on April 6, 1999.

    To summarize: according to the claim, this patent combines two known techniques in what I would regard as an obvious manner. The patent only covers garbage collection on a particular type of data object. Back in the seventies the existing art was already sufficient for managing all data objects.
  • by walterbyrd ( 182728 ) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @10:58PM (#35903108)

    I wouldn't get too worked up about this.

    Except that is this is only one of several such lawsuits, and there may be many more on the way.

    PJ, at Groklaw, suspects that Microsoft is behind these lawsuits, and she suspects that there are many more on the way.

    If I might remind you, Mike Anderer told us years ago, back in 2004, that this was Microsoft's plan, to see to it that FOSS companies got sued over and over again for patent infringement, until they gave out

    I suspect Microsoft may have 50 or more of these lawsuits in the queue.


Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"