×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Red Hat Paid $4.2m To Settle Patent Suit

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the thats-a-lotta-CDs dept.

Patents 48

An anonymous reader writes "'Red Hat paid $US4.2 million to settle a patent infringement suit brought against it by FireStar Software, an intellectual property activist claims. Florian Mueller, who made a name for himself during the campaign to prevent the adoption of software patents in Europe some years ago, said he had dug up a court filing that showed the payment had been made.' Mueller says the payment made by Red Hat was kept secret but news about it surfaced in another suit."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

48 comments

So? (1, Insightful)

zero.kalvin (1231372) | more than 3 years ago | (#35491306)

How is this any new news ? Companies have lawsuits, sometime they win, sometime they lose. All type of companies, whether we like them or not. So really move along now, there is nothing to see.

Re:So? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35491462)

Because Firestar sounds a little bit like Deathstar.

Re:So? (1)

Jiro (131519) | more than 3 years ago | (#35491556)

If you RTFA it points out that Red Hat and Eben Moglen claimed that paying the money was compatible with the GPL, yet also told the European Commission that only royalty-free standards are compatible with the GPL. Which contradicts themselves.

Re:So? (2)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 3 years ago | (#35491714)

If you RTFA you'd see that it was authored by Florian Mueller and that there is nothing wrong with what happened.

GPL says that if the settlement makes terms incompatible with the GPL, then you cannot distribute. It has nothing to do with the patent settlement terms which are unknown and/or the fact that this doesn't mean it's paying royalties on a standard.

Re:So? (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35491766)

If Red Hat's FAQ is correct the patent license applies to all derivative works ... so there is a royaltee free license.

"All products distributed under a Red Hat brand are covered, as well as upstream predecessor versions of those products. In addition, derivative works of or combination products using covered products are protected from any patent claim based in any respect on the covered products."

Re:So? (1)

Anthony Mouse (1927662) | more than 3 years ago | (#35492444)

If Red Hat's FAQ is correct the patent license applies to all derivative works ... so there is a royaltee free license.

"All products distributed under a Red Hat brand are covered, as well as upstream predecessor versions of those products. In addition, derivative works of or combination products using covered products are protected from any patent claim based in any respect on the covered products."

That's actually a pretty interesting strategy for the pro-patent people -- provide a royalty-free license for anyone distributing software under a copyleft license, but charge royalties to proprietary software makers and hardware companies. Then you get network effects from free software using it and you still get to levy a tax on Microsoft and Apple.

Re:So? (1)

spitzak (4019) | more than 3 years ago | (#35493664)

It is not clear why this approach is not tried more, by legitimate patents. For instance MPEG-LA could pretty much decimate the opposition to H264 by granting a royalty-free license to any software where the source is included (or any similar method they can think of where the purpose is to clearly make distribution of the codec with a Linux distribution possible).

It is possible they have thought of this, but would like it even better if RedHat or Canonical or somebody coughs up a ransom payment like this.

Re:So? (1)

Anthony Mouse (1927662) | more than 3 years ago | (#35493946)

It is possible they have thought of this, but would like it even better if RedHat or Canonical or somebody coughs up a ransom payment like this.

The problem there is that they only get one payment, so it's a collective action problem. RedHat doesn't want to be the only one paying and then have Canonical, Novell and everybody else benefit from it or vice versa, so they just each refuse to include H.264 in the default install so that they can't be sued over it. And if they're not infringing the patents because they don't include it, MPEG-LA can't just pick one and force them to take a license for everybody.

Also, MPEG-LA isn't your typical patent licensor. Apple and Microsoft have a lot of sway and it isn't at all clear that they want Linux to support H.264 -- easier to compete when you make compatibility with your technology contingent on licensing patents that your competitors can't license, right?

Re:So? (5, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#35492172)

If you RTFA, you lose 1 IQ point for every minute before you realise that it's by Florian Mueller (who made a name for himself on Slashdot for repeatedly posting incorrect and inflammatory posts, and is now using an anonymous sock puppet because even the dim editors have learned to reject his posts by now).

Only royalty-free standards are compatible with the GPL. A one-off payment by Red Hat to the patent holder for a non-revokable, sublicenseable, patent license is not. Neither is buying the patent outright and granting everyone the right to use it. The GPL prevents you from imposing any additional requirements on downstream recipients (for example, requiring them from to buy a patent license from you or a third party), but it does not prevent you from imposing conditions on yourself (for example, requiring you to buy or license all of the relevant patents and license them to everyone downstream).

Re:So? (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#35493404)

who made a name for himself on Slashdot for repeatedly posting incorrect and inflammatory posts

Yes, because that really set him apart from the rest of the posters here in a very visible way.

Re:So? (1, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35493736)

Wait, Florian Mueller? Didn't he hold a young girl down in 1990 so Glenn Beck could rape and murder her? Now, I don't think he did, but if he didn't, why does he refuse to deny it? Again, I'm not accusing him of doing it, but it's a question that I'm sure many people want answered.

Re:So? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35495708)

If you RTFA, you lose 1 IQ point for every minute before you realise that it's by Florian Mueller....

It took you *that* long? I didn't need to read any further than the first pargraph of the summary:

Florian Mueller, who made a name for himself during the campaign to prevent the adoption of software patents in Europe some years ago...

I might have an unfair advantage, however, since I used to work with him. Fortunately, it wasn't very long -- just long enough to figure out that:

1. It's all about Florian. (Always.)

2. If it's about Florian, it started with Florian. (Not always, but more often than not.)

Re:So? (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35493230)

It only contradicts if one presumes Red Hat is isolated from all other businesses on the planet. The reality is, responsible business frequently understand paying legalized extortion is frequently cheaper than a protracted legal battle forced by an extremely broken legal system.

The simply fact is, you know your legal system is extremely broken when the rule of thumb is its cheaper to pay extortion than it is it enter the legal system to not pay said extortion.

Pragmatically, Red Hat paying this only means they have an interest in running a company. It says nothing more and nothing less. Anything anyone wants to read into it, unless additional facts are provided, only validates people are attempting to read their own ignorance or malice into the situation.

A good place for egos to be used (2)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 3 years ago | (#35491356)

The people who run these big companies (not necessarily) RedHat are known for being egotistical, nasty sons of bitches. It would be nice if the response we saw more and more from them to patent trolls was "crush them, burn them, leave their wives and children in the poor house." I mean be so nasty and vindictive that even after the troll goes bankrupt, they "pierce the corporate veil" and pursue the management and their families into bankruptcy.

Re:A good place for egos to be used (2)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35491838)

I entirely agree that corporations should be discouraged from trolling is fine, but going after individuals and their families is hardly very "nice". Justice is good, but vigilante justice is a potentially slippery slope. Having said that, if Anonymous are going to hassle people, they should hassle these fuckers from time to time too.

Re:A good place for egos to be used (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 3 years ago | (#35492402)

Fuck that. That is exactly how you go after these guys.
Once they find out that their entire extended families are getting hosed this shit will stop.
Their kids will not be able to get into any good schools. Their parents will find themselves without jobs.
Their personal bank accounts will be empty and their wives will be applying for WIC.

Fuck the patent trolls. Their lawyers and their families.

Re:A good place for egos to be used (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35494322)

Fuck that. That is exactly how you go after these guys. Once they find out that their entire extended families are getting hosed this shit will stop. Their kids will not be able to get into any good schools. Their parents will find themselves without jobs. Their personal bank accounts will be empty and their wives will be applying for WIC.

You have it backwards...once they see that it is OK to do what you suggest, they will not think twice to do the same back. Take away everything meaningful to them, and they will not hold back to do the same back to you. You will put them in a spot where they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by returning the favor.

Re:A good place for egos to be used (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 3 years ago | (#35495118)

The guy you do it to will be in no position to do any harm.
The ones who are thinking of doing it will think again.

Why was it kept secret? (1)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 3 years ago | (#35491358)

Does Red Hat own any software patents itself? Surely if it is against the idea of software patents then it would be in its interest to show the wider software community what it has been driven to (if that is how it feels)? Or was it worried that defending itself would be long and complex, and would be ashamed to admit that it gave in? Perhaps it did not want to attract too much anti-patent campaigning, as this might scare away some of its bigger clients?

It would also be interesting to see what efforts were made at uncovering prior art. Speaking as a non-lawyer, I don't see anything particularly novel in the description, but maybe a very specific combination of elements is not considered to have existed previously.

Re:Why was it kept secret? (4, Informative)

Desler (1608317) | more than 3 years ago | (#35491438)

Does Red Hat own any software patents itself?

Yes. They even have a whole page [redhat.com] about patents:

One defense against such misuse is to develop a corresponding portfolio of software patents for defensive purposes. Many software companies, both open source and proprietary, pursue this strategy. In the interests of our company and in an attempt to protect and promote the open source community, Red Hat has elected to adopt this same stance. We do so reluctantly because of the perceived inconsistency with our stance against software patents; however, prudence dictates this position.

At the same time, Red Hat will continue to maintain its position as an open source leader and dedicated participant in open source collaboration by extending the promise set forth below.

Fire Star? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35491486)

So that's what Spider Man's amazing friends are up to these days. Wonder if Ice Man is involved in this as well?

lawsuit settlement != royalties (3, Interesting)

jkinney3 (535278) | more than 3 years ago | (#35491512)

RedHat settles a lawsuit and obtained the ability to continue to include code that was found to be patented by others. RedHat paid the cash and in exchange the code is now available under the GPL v.[23] with no further repercussions either upstream towards developers or downstream towards JBoss users. Did they license the code with that cash? That's not what it looks like. It looks like the cash was paid as a penalty and the legal team at RedHat made sure that was all that would ever be paid for the use of that. Did RedHat buy the license with that cash? Not sure but that is allowed in the GPL (my understanding at least. IANAL).

Re:lawsuit settlement != royalties (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35491920)

Redhat has never made the details of the patent agreement with Firestart public, have they? The only thing Redhat published were press releases that made certain claims about the patent deal and compatibility with GPL licenses which everyone lauded. They did not reveal that they made a payment to Firestare in those press release. That important and intentionally withheld fact casts doubt on Redhat's credibility here. I certainly wouldn't trust Redhat's say so about upstream or downstream patent protection if my company were to be sued for patent violations.

Redhat needs to come clean here and publish their patent agreement in full. Any hedging on their part to do so should cause grave concerns among OSS companies who utilize software that may run afoul of Firestare's patents.

Known troll ... (2, Informative)

janoc (699997) | more than 3 years ago | (#35491530)

This guy is just sensationalist troll seeking attention. Remember how he has recently claimed that he has a "proof" that Google violated Sun's copyrights in Android? It was very soundly debunked. He is just using this "secret" to attack RedHat for no reason - spin alert, guys! Not exactly a credible source to report ...

Re:Known troll ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35491562)

An "anonymous reader" submitted that post too.

Re:Known troll ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35491586)

It seems that the courts disagree with you that this is just spin.

Re:Known troll ... (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#35491762)

I don't think that would affect the supposed "evidence" that has been bandied about in public, which *was* thoroughly debunked as the OP claimed.

And let's not forget, SCO vs IBM/Novell etc. is STILL going on nearly 10 years later with not a shred of evidence that anything copyright-infringement-wise actually came close to happening like they said it did.

Re:Known troll ... (2)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#35491828)

Settlement != loss in court. Let's pretend we're companies. I'm an Open Source company and I'm using some tech you claim to have patented. You sue me. I have two possible responses. Fight you and risk losing, or settle with you. You offer me the following terms: Pay me some relatively trivial amount of money, and I will make a legally binding promise that I will never sue you or anyone involved in using this tech again. So basically, for less money that it would cost me to fight you I not only get you to go away, but promise to stay away. From a legal and financial point of view this is as good or better than winning the case. Why wouldn't I do it? Especially if your claim has any merit at all and I feel I might have any chance of losing?

Re:Known troll ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35491986)

So basically, for less money that it would cost me to fight you I not only get you to go away, but promise to stay away. From a legal and financial point of view this is as good or better than winning the case. Why wouldn't I do it?

Well, for one thing, people like me won't ever do business again with RedHat after hearing this. What I've learned here is that either RedHat violated a patent, in which case they're fucking morons, or they caved to legal pressure over bogus IP, in which case they're fucking morons. So yeah, no more RedHat for me now.

What's the alternative? Well, the alternative would be fighting it and possibly sinking RedHat. That would have been a far better approach. If RedHat gets killed by some IP-waving turd, that'll have big impact throughout enterprise deployments. You think all those big guys are gonna just stand around and watch it happen?

Re:Known troll ... (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#35492064)

Except Red Hat probably isn't even the primary (theoretical) infringer here. Red Hat mostly aggregates other projects into their "OS" package. They were sued becasue they have money, not because were the author of the infringing code. Most likely Red Hat not only saved themselves some bucks, they also kept some patent troll from destroying a piece of the FOSS ecosystem.

Re:Known troll ... (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#35493420)

It isn't especially difficult to violate a patent; there are a lot of them, a lot of them are closely related, and it is not reasonable to expect your programmers to do a patent search every day before work.

Re:Known troll ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35492034)

Not looking for "credibility".. They are advertising partners, and they made a deal to toss a few links back and forth. Kinda like used car dealers trading inventory so it looks like they're making a sale..

Besides, the story was just scooped up and spit out by the aggregator, untouched by human hands..

Very bland it's getting here, like cnet without the pretty colors...

Re:Known troll ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35492044)

It was very soundly debunked.

No, it was very soundly disproven or very soundly falsified. Maybe "disproved" since for some reason the media for the last few years can't stand the sound of "proven" and substitutes "proved", and of course they all parrot each other so what one network does, all of them do. But I digress.

Debunkers only operate where there was never much evidence for something either way. Their goal is not to ascertain the truth. If it was, they'd operate where there is strong evidence. No, the goal of a debunker is to take some of the pain away from his/her meaningless and empty existence by trying to ridicule someone else, typically someone else with a more open mind and a more pleasant less know-it-all demeanor.

Re:Known troll ... (1)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 3 years ago | (#35496422)

Nonsense. He's long been a leading figure in the fight against software patents [wikipedia.org]. Groklaw has mounted a major FUD campaign against him because he violated the Groklaw prime directive ("Thou Shalt Not Criticize IBM") and that seems to be the ultimate source of most of the negative claims against him.

Re:Known troll ... (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501710)

Groklaw is something I've never bothered to read and it became quite apparent to me very quickly that he was in fact a troll.

You can blame Groklaw if you want, but there's plenty of us independently minded folk who have similarly come to the same conclusion based simply on the fact that much of what he does post really is actually provably false.

You can't blame people for not wanting to swallow FUD, and whether the Groklaw community has similarly found distaste for him is neither here nor there. Whatever he is perceived to have done that's good, he has ruined with outright the outright FUD and attention whoring he persists in.

A fixed payment is not a royalty (1)

MerlinTheGreen (180976) | more than 3 years ago | (#35492424)

Wikipedia defines royalties as "usage-based payments made by one party (the "licensee") and another (the "licensor") for ongoing use of an asset, sometimes an intellectual property.". While wikipedia is not authoritive that matchs my own understanding of royalties. By their very nature royalty payments are on going.

Thus Redhat is not paying royalties to FireStar (present tense) they have paid (past tense) money to them as a royalty-buy-out (meaning neither they, nor any downstream user, must pay royalties).

This does not, in any sense whatsoever, contradict the position that royalty encumbered standards are incompatible with the GNU GPL.

Payment not secret (2)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 3 years ago | (#35492610)

Typical Florian. RedHat didn't keep the payment secret. What they redacted was the amount of the payment, not that there was a payment. I suspect it was redacted at the insistence of the other party, who didn't want any of their other victims knowing what kind of deal to shoot for themselves.

The Microsoft Shill Florian Mueller? (3, Informative)

StuartHankins (1020819) | more than 3 years ago | (#35492622)

Well color me surprised. Just for fun, type "Florian Mueller Microsoft" into your search engine of choice and read some of the results from the first page. This guy pretends to be a friend of Open Source, but his actions speak otherwise. I would be ashamed, after taking money from Red Hat, to be writing articles attempting to cause them grief.

Florian Mueller a shill (4, Informative)

TemporalBeing (803363) | more than 3 years ago | (#35492914)

As other have noted, Florian is now a Microsoft Shill. Yes, he made himself a name in the F/OSS community a while back; only then he later sold it to Microsoft as part of the OOXML ISO process, and has continued with Software Patents and anything else MS wants him to write about. So, take anything he says with a grain of salt at best - if you give any credence to it at all.

Re:Florian Mueller a shill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35495836)

I would not call him a Microsoft shill. Microsoft may or may not pay him currently and their goals may align to some extent with his, but in the end Florian only cares about himself and only works for himself. That is also why Red Hat refused to have anything further to do with him after they initially funded the NoSoftwarePatents campaign for a while: he can not be trusted and he is only loyal to himself.

Let us hope Microsoft gets burnt just as badly. The only thing I am not sure about is who he will find to fund his personal vendetta against both Red Hat and Microsoft afterwards (since of course it is always the others who are stupid and betraying him). Maybe he could try tricking Apple next time.

I'm puzzled... (1)

BudAaron (1231468) | more than 3 years ago | (#35493244)

I thought Linix (as in RedHat etc) was free software. If it's free what did they use to pay the 4.2 million????? You see, as a developer of software I hate this notion that open source means free. SOMEONE pays at some point......

Re:I'm puzzled... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35493928)

It is Free, not free. That is, there are certain Freedoms you gain using Free and Open Source software, like the right to modify for your own purposes. The free as in beer part is just a secondary consequence of giving away the code that anyone can recompile. But you are correct, someone pays somewhere. If not money then in time and other resources. In an ideal FOSS ecosystem that cost is shared amongst the participants.

Re:I'm puzzled... (1)

VanessaE (970834) | more than 3 years ago | (#35495432)

Since "free" can have more than one meaning, many folks use phrases like "FLOSS" (where the "L" stands for "libre", from the Latin for "liberty"), "Free as in freedom, not beer", or they may change the capitalization on the word "free".

Just as citizens of certain countries consider themselves to be free, in that they are not oppressed by some regime, dictator, etc. and can move about and act more or less as they please, software can be defined in the same sense: by not being locked down by a given company or author, and being usable by anyone, anywhere, for any purpose, without the author or distributor of the software having much say in the matter. That's the "libre" or "freedom" definition of the word.

You're thinking of the "free of monetary cost" definition, hence the "beer" reference above, in that you could just download the software in question without paying anything.

Not all software that is free of monetary cost is necessarily particularly free in the "liberty" sense of the word. Any program that you can easily download, but which comes with a restrictive EULA probably falls into this category.

On the other hand, not all software that costs money is necessarily devoid of liberty. Some Linux distributions can be found on brick-and-mortar store shelves, and hence incur some small monetary cost, but carry no usage restrictions and have all of the source code available either in the package or online someplace.

There is also a third thing to consider: Companies like Red Hat, Canonical, etc. also sell support services, usually independent of whether their software/distribution has to be purchased or not. I can't speak for the financial details of such arrangements, but this is where these companies a significant portion of their money.

Flashback... (1)

subk (551165) | more than 3 years ago | (#35495840)

Did anybody else but me think about "RedHat 4.2" when you first saw this title? Another oddity: there were exactly 42 comments..

I just hate RedHat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35524038)

You know something, I never liked RedHat. RH Linux always filled me with disgust whenever I had to use it. I hope RH dies my friends.

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...