Linked by David Adams on Fri 22nd Apr 2011 14:47 UTC, submitted by galvanash
Legal A Texas jury has ruled against Google in a suit that alleged some of its use of open-source Linux code amounted to patent infringement, something that could have big implications for other companies using Linux technology and other open-source systems. In the verdict, delivered last week, the jury decided that Google should pay $5 million for the infringement.
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So...
by senshikaze on Fri 22nd Apr 2011 15:11 UTC
senshikaze
Member since:
2011-03-08

What does this mean for the Linux ecosystem? Will just using Linux in a business make them liable? What about consumers?

Frankly if you agree that this is how patents should work, you are an idiot.

The patent: "methods and apparatus for information storage and retrieval using a hashing technique with external chaining and on-the-fly removal of expired data."
http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/5893120/claims.html

That is blatantly obvious. They don't even try to invent anything.

Reply Score: 2

RE: So...
by Elv13 on Fri 22nd Apr 2011 16:06 UTC in reply to "So..."
Elv13 Member since:
2006-06-12

OMG, they patented garbage collector, how innovative!

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: So...
by JAlexoid on Fri 22nd Apr 2011 17:10 UTC in reply to "RE: So..."
JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

OMG, they patented garbage collector, how innovative!

The GC would be innovative. It's the LRU algorithm the patented. Which even in 1997 was not in any way novel!

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: So...
by somebody on Fri 22nd Apr 2011 17:35 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: So..."
somebody Member since:
2005-07-07

i'd really hope it isn't novel. one possible example of this is dns caching with TTL expiration. i wonder how much this predates 1997;)

Reply Score: 4

RE[4]: So...
by galvanash on Fri 22nd Apr 2011 19:03 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: So..."
galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

Well if you can find a dns server implementing this using a chain hash that prunes entries on updates based on TTL... I'm willing to bet some lawyers at Google would be very happy to hear from you ;)

Seriously though, for a patent the details matter. Its not so much the "concept" of using a hash of some kind with entries that are pruned during updates - its the specific implementation that matters. It has to be a chain hash (using a linked-list for the buckets, not arrays) and it has to prune the entries during the process of walking over the list, not as an external or separate process.

Even still, someone has to have some old code laying around that does this predating 1997. I mean this is a brain dead simple concept, any first year programmer with rudimentary understand of hashing structures could have come up with it.

Edited 2011-04-22 19:04 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[5]: So...
by Lennie on Fri 22nd Apr 2011 20:27 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: So..."
Lennie Member since:
2007-09-22

You also have to prove that the code existed at that time.

That could be a bit more complicated I would expect.

Reply Score: 2

RE[6]: So...
by jrincayc on Sun 24th Apr 2011 13:46 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: So..."
jrincayc Member since:
2007-07-24

Well, by 1997, some of the Linux and BSD distributions had repositories. It should be possible.

Reply Score: 1

RE[5]: So...
by JAlexoid on Sat 23rd Apr 2011 21:37 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: So..."
JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

I mean this is a brain dead simple concept, any first year programmer with rudimentary understand of hashing structures could have come up with it.


Again... I bet they are going to hit it with "obviousness".

Reply Score: 2

RE: So...
by galvanash on Fri 22nd Apr 2011 17:04 UTC in reply to "So..."
galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

That is blatantly obvious. They don't even try to invent anything.


Hell, your going easy on them... Blatantly obvious does not even begin to describe it. I really do know how totally screwed up the USPTO is and I'm still surprised a patent was actually awarded for something this silly.

Extending a chained hash by doing pruning on updates is literally so obvious that virtually anyone who would ever need to do such a thing would immediately see it as an obvious thing to do - and this particular implementation (from what I can gather from de-tangling the patent) is essentially the most basic, obvious, and unoriginal method I could imagine. I mean there HAS to be prior art on this - going back to the 70s even... and this was filed in 1997!

That and the sneaky legal maneuvering used to get this heard in Texas... They file suit against 9 huge companies and throw in CitiWare Technology Solutions, a piss-ant web consultant firm with literally no money or clients - just to get venue in East Texas.

And these Bedrock people are text-book patent trolls. Read this for some history: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/07/patent-reformer-bec...

On the bright side there are probably like 100s of ways to work around the patent with little effort and few harmful effects if it comes down to that, but I HAVE to believe this will simple get laughed out of court on appeal.

Reply Score: 5

v Google is not an 'Open Source' company
by edvim on Fri 22nd Apr 2011 15:15 UTC
Gunderwo Member since:
2006-01-03

I have no idea what your above statement has to do with the Patent Lawsuit discussed in the article. What does this article have to do with OS development vs Proprietary. I don't see the connection you're making. Are you trying to troll or is there something I'm missing here.

Reply Score: 7

Surprise!
by Valhalla on Fri 22nd Apr 2011 15:48 UTC
Valhalla
Member since:
2006-01-24

that this ruling came in Texas, home turf of patent troll litigation.

I'm looking forward to an appeal to be held somewhere (anywhere!) else.

Reply Score: 5

RE: Surprise!
by JAlexoid on Fri 22nd Apr 2011 17:18 UTC in reply to "Surprise!"
JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

that this ruling came in Texas, home turf of patent troll litigation.

I'm looking forward to an appeal to be held somewhere (anywhere!) else.


Imagine that. A jury of "software illiterate" people rule pro government agency!

Reply Score: 3

v ...
by Hiev on Fri 22nd Apr 2011 15:51 UTC
Software Patents
by Alfman on Fri 22nd Apr 2011 18:11 UTC
Alfman
Member since:
2011-01-28

Practically all significant software infringes issued patents. Linux is no exception.

Many people assume (very wrongly) that software patent infringement involves copying of code or other technical material. In fact, that's not what patents do, that's copyright. Patent infringement comes about when multiple parties independently implement the same idea.

Therefor, when many developers strive to solve the same problems, it is inescapable that many are likely to implement the same solutions.

I feel very strongly that independent implementations should not be forced to license software patents.
Software patents are obviously not responsible for motivating software developers in the first place.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Software Patents
by senshikaze on Sun 24th Apr 2011 14:29 UTC in reply to "Software Patents"
senshikaze Member since:
2011-03-08

Frankly, I firmly believe that software patents should be outlawed immediately (along with business practice patents). There has yet to be one software patent that has had a lawsuit that, to me, wasn't obvious or wasn't implemented well before the patent was applied for.

To top it off, as far as I can tell, the patent office doesn't actually hire any programmers to look over software patents("Gasp! You want people who know what the hell they are looking at to determine validity? Why, I never!"), so these fall through the gigantic rifts in the patent office.

But the joke is on us. Until normal people get angry (and why the hell should they), nothing will change.

Edited 2011-04-24 14:30 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE: Software Patents
by lemur2 on Tue 26th Apr 2011 11:47 UTC in reply to "Software Patents"
lemur2 Member since:
2007-02-17

Many people assume (very wrongly) that software patent infringement involves copying of code or other technical material. In fact, that's not what patents do, that's copyright. Patent infringement comes about when multiple parties independently implement the same idea.


Many people assume (very wrongly) that patents cover ideas. They do not. They cover "inventions" or "methods of achieving <some desired outcome>".

Methods, not ideas.

The very best defence against any patent attack is to show that your implementation does not use the same method(s) as described in the patent, even though it may achieve the same thing, or the same idea if you will. As long as it is done in a different way, your implementation does NOT violate the patent.

After all, patents are supposed to encourage innovation, not prevent it. If you invent a different way to do something, then your invention is perfectly valid competition for the original invention.

Patents do not protect ideas, they protect only methods.

Edited 2011-04-26 11:49 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Software Patents
by Alfman on Tue 26th Apr 2011 18:43 UTC in reply to "RE: Software Patents"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

lemur2,

"Many people assume (very wrongly) that patents cover ideas. They do not. They cover 'inventions' or 'methods of achieving <some desired outcome>'.
Methods, not ideas."


I understand your point, but in the US, patents are granted for the idea of a method, even if the method is unproven, impossible, or not implemented. In other words, the patent holder *is* given a monopoly on an idea for a method.

"The very best defence against any patent attack is to show that your implementation does not use the same method(s) as described in the patent"

Sure, but then that's not what we're talking about when we talk about patent infringement.

In any case, you're not taking into account the fact that patent lawyers (software or otherwise) enumerate hundreds of variations on a method in an attempt to eliminate the possibility of others to circumvent it. Patenting algorithm permutations is even more practical with software patents.

If we're honest about it, more often than not, the goal of using patents is to harm competition rather than protect a developer's investment.

"After all, patents are supposed to encourage innovation, not prevent it. If you invent a different way to do something, then your invention is perfectly valid competition for the original invention."

It makes no sense to grant a monopoly on an idea/method for software in the first place when there are so many independent developers coming up with the same thing. Why does it matter who did it first (as if that is even knowable)? Why should software developers be held back 15 years to avoid patent infringement? Really?

We're just lucky that, for the most part, software patents are so poorly enforced. Otherwise software developers would have to waste time cross checking every procedure (which they wrote themselves) against a massive software patent database (written in legalese no less). Then we'd have to waste our time finding worse algorithms to the one we optimized just to avoid the need to pay fees on our own code.

"Patents do not protect ideas, they protect only methods."

Even if this were true, software patents are still not a good idea.

Edited 2011-04-26 18:49 UTC

Reply Score: 1

Comment by Brynet
by brynet on Fri 22nd Apr 2011 20:17 UTC
brynet
Member since:
2010-03-02

It's impossible for software NOT to infringe on at least some patents.. open source or otherwise.

That's why software patents are a bad idea.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Comment by Brynet
by Pizik on Fri 22nd Apr 2011 22:36 UTC in reply to "Comment by Brynet"
Pizik Member since:
2011-04-05

I am sat here using a Mouse pointer, Icons, a Desktop, Scrollbars. This window has buttons, a border, max/minimise buttons, a close button. Maybe someone can patent troll these things. Must be worth a buck or two.

Reply Score: 1

Look, I don't want to rain on your parade...
by tomcat on Sat 23rd Apr 2011 01:02 UTC
tomcat
Member since:
2006-01-06

... but patent infringement litigation isn't going away and many organizations -- both closed and open source -- are going to face liability. Wringing your hands and wailing about the unfairness of it all isn't going to get anyone anywhere. Want change? Work together to form a Political Action Committee (PAC), and write new legislation. Otherwise, this shit is going to continue over and over and over again... There's just too much money at stake.

Reply Score: 4

matthekc
Member since:
2006-10-28

Three patent lawsuits on the front page, all at once?

Not to mention the other lawsuit, a patent protection pool, a codec created just to avoid patents, and other miscellaneous law related articles.

Edited 2011-04-23 06:17 UTC

Reply Score: 1

cb88 Member since:
2009-04-23

well... with groklaw about to end and all...

Reply Score: 4

twitterfire
Member since:
2008-09-11

...are something that make me stop and exclaim: WOW!

A bunch of rednecks decided that google should pay some money to a patent troll. I don't think this is going to affect anyone else. This is the result of the american legal system where any group of random taken idiots or morons can decide the outcome of a lawsuit.

Reply Score: 1

westlake Member since:
2010-01-07

A bunch of rednecks decided that google should pay some money to a patent troll.


The jury was asked three questions, which must be answered consistently:

1 Did the plaintiff prove by the weight of the evidence presented here that Google infringed its patent?

On Claim 1, Yes. On Claim 2, Yes.

2 Did Google prove by the weight of the evidence presented here that it did not infringe the plaintiff's patent.

On Clain 1, No. On Claim 2, No.

3 If you find that the patent was infringed, what would be fair and reasonable compensation for the plaintiff, based on the weight of the evidence presented here?

$5,000,000

To reach the jury in this form - Google must have lost every legal argument it could make against the validity of the parent, at every point in the case where the validity of the patent could be questioned.

Reply Score: 1

Comment by fran
by fran on Mon 25th Apr 2011 14:56 UTC
fran
Member since:
2010-08-06

Sorry, but in these types of cases your median citizen is just not knowledgeable enough to be called upon to make such important decisions. Even with the emotion laden crash courses opposing lawyers subject them to. That's why so many countries have specialised courts for certain matters.

This decision is very likely to be reversed on appeal.
US regulators is starting to appreciate to value of Linux and this is highlighted by there recent conditions on Microsoft for the takeover of those Novell patents.

Reply Score: 2

cows...
by TomF on Mon 25th Apr 2011 19:34 UTC
TomF
Member since:
2010-01-22

Texas... where the raising of a cow is patented. The rest of the world should become vegetarian or else Texas will sue us all.

Disgusted
Tom UK

Reply Score: 1

RE: cows...
by brynet on Tue 26th Apr 2011 00:59 UTC in reply to "cows..."
brynet Member since:
2010-03-02

I would give my life to defend the cow.. well, my right to eat cows.

Reply Score: 1

In use since the 80's
by Tractor on Tue 26th Apr 2011 13:32 UTC
Tractor
Member since:
2006-08-18

Well, looking into a Hash table, then chaining to solve collisions : isn't that existing since the early 80's ???
I mean, any simple LZ77 compressor does exactly that, and that was way before 1997. How come such a "method" be patented in 1997 ? Prior art doesn't mean anything ?

Reply Score: 1