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Linux Patent Infringement Lawsuit Filed Against Red Hat/Novell

Zonk posted about 7 years ago | from the same-dang-thing-over-and-over dept.

Linux Business 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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slashdot (-1, Offtopic)

wwmedia (950346) | about 7 years ago | (#20952495)

dont fear the penguins!

"...filled against Linux" (4, Informative)

tronicum (617382) | about 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:"...filled against Linux" (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20952633)


Re:"...filled against Linux" (1)

J0nne (924579) | about 7 years ago | (#20952685)

I guess we'll all have to go back to the command line then... /me installs links

Re:"...filled against Linux" (3, Funny)

hal9000(jr) (316943) | about 7 years ago | (#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.... (2, Insightful)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | about 7 years ago | (#20952721)

Whether we like it or not, "linux" has almost from the start meant more than just a kernel.

Re:Whether we like it or not.... (3, Funny)

aichpvee (631243) | about 7 years ago | (#20952933)

I like it!

Re:Whether we like it or not.... (1, Insightful)

ls -la (937805) | about 7 years ago | (#20953119)

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:"...filled against Linux" (1, Offtopic)

Tuoqui (1091447) | about 7 years ago | (#20952741)

I guess Microsoft got Kernel mixed up with GUI. 1 Patent down, 234 more to go?

Re:"...filled against Linux" (2, Informative)

phoenixwade (997892) | about 7 years ago | (#20953025)

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)

Re:"...filled against Linux" (5, Informative)

gtall (79522) | about 7 years ago | (#20953131)

The company filing the lawsuit has ex-MicroSofties on its payroll, and some were recent hires.


Re:"...filled against Linux" (1)

phoenixwade (997892) | about 7 years ago | (#20953367)

The company filing the lawsuit has ex-MicroSofties on its payroll, and some were recent hires.

Yes, I know. But the parent was indicating that one of the 235 patent violations was now under scrutiny, and on it's way down. I agree that I think this patent is going to be invalidated, however, it's NOT one of the patents Balmer has been running his mouth about, since it isn't Microsoft ITSELF filing. So, it isn't 1 down....

Re:"...filled against Linux" (5, Insightful)

TheSciBoy (1050166) | about 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:"...filled against Linux" (4, Insightful)

I'm Don Giovanni (598558) | about 7 years ago | (#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.

Patent law question (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 7 years ago | (#20953479)

They are attacking companies that make money selling Linux.

Are they allowed to do that? I thought the patent system was set up to punish the people/companies who manufacture or produce the infringing... thing, not those who sell it. I mean, can they sue Business Depot, or for selling Linux, and if so, are they?

Follow the money (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20952513)

Now that Microsoft have taken all they can from SCO FUD, they'll start another attack vector.

Re:Follow the money (5, Informative)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about 7 years ago | (#20952815)

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 (3, Interesting)

Burz (138833) | about 7 years ago | (#20953395)

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:Follow the money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20952907)

Funny, I read "attack vector" as "attack vendor". Sounds kind of wonky, but it rings true somehow.

Re:Follow the money (5, Interesting)

TechForensics (944258) | about 7 years ago | (#20952949)

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.

Re:Follow the money (5, Insightful)

CmdrGravy (645153) | about 7 years ago | (#20953207)

The reason they're not doing this themselves because if they were to even think about trying they would be dropped down a bottomless pit of IBM et al counter patents.

Since these Acacia people don't actually do anything other than patent troll defensive patent portfolios are useless against it.

It would be nice to ban software patents outright (1)

sqldr (838964) | about 7 years ago | (#20953311)

But that would be hard to get. What we need is a patent license. If you sue over a patent you have no intention of ever implementing, you lose your right to have patents.

TBH (0, Troll)

Neotrantor (597070) | about 7 years ago | (#20952517)

ballmer needs to be on meds.

Saved me some effort (2, Informative)

faloi (738831) | about 7 years ago | (#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?

Re:Saved me some effort (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 7 years ago | (#20952993)

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! (2, Interesting)

xzvf (924443) | about 7 years ago | (#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! (5, Informative)

ais523 (1172701) | about 7 years ago | (#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! (5, Insightful)

CmdrGravy (645153) | about 7 years ago | (#20952925)

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! (1)

TechForensics (944258) | about 7 years ago | (#20953169)

But here the real party in interest has isolated the patents in a troll holding company (Acacia) and its own use of patents cannot therefore be called into question. Does anyone doubt that Microsoft is the real party in interest?

Extra! Extra! Read all about it (0, Redundant)

mad zambian (816201) | about 7 years ago | (#20952553)

at Groklaw. []
As usual ,PJ sets it out cleanly and succinctly.
SCO II has arrived.

Re:Extra! Extra! Read all about it (4, Funny)

russ1337 (938915) | about 7 years ago | (#20952889)

SCO II has arrived.
*PFFFFT*: is the sound of me opening first can of beer while I sit back, feet up, chicken wings at the ready, to watch the action.

This is a game of two halves and four quarters right? Hope they stop for some entertainment mid-trial.

Mod Redundant, linked in summary (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20953201)

How you got modded +5 Informative for providing a link to the Groklaw article that is already linked in the fscking summary is beyond me.

Or maybe it just means that neither you nor the 4 people who modded you up actually clicked on any links in the summary.

Re:Extra! Extra! Read all about it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20953461)

That's the link in the story here, genius.

I'd followed it, got as far as "Here's the patent, for those who can look at it without risk. If in doubt, don't.", chuckled at the idea of any of the howling chimps at Groklaw being involved with window manager development and gave up. Reading this, I don't think I've underestimated you people any.

I'm sure this story is, as always, just ZONK... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20952575)

oh... i meant to write FUD

Happy 10th anniversary Slashdot... I sure miss the pre-Politics and FUD-free times...

Interesting. (5, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | about 7 years ago | (#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. (4, Interesting)

faloi (738831) | about 7 years ago | (#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. (4, Interesting)

Constantine XVI (880691) | about 7 years ago | (#20952775)

It so happens that even Microsoft is violating this patent directly (EXE link warning) []

Re:Interesting. (1)

Nossie (753694) | about 7 years ago | (#20953471)

if they think you have a valid claim against multiple violators can they force you to move against all of them?

regardless of all the X based window systems... would this IP patent troll sue MS when we know they have execs on-board?

Re:Interesting. (5, Insightful)

langelgjm (860756) | about 7 years ago | (#20952849)

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:Interesting. (2, Insightful)

Andrewkov (140579) | about 7 years ago | (#20953103)

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. (2, Funny)

qortra (591818) | about 7 years ago | (#20952899)

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 badly chosen anyway.

Gnomes vs Trolls; how cool is this?

Re:Interesting. (4, Informative)

dhj (110274) | about 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:Interesting. (1)

Aladrin (926209) | about 7 years ago | (#20953133)

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 portion of the item.

There must also be quite a few art programs that violate this as well by displaying the same workspace multiple times with slightly different views... r/g/b/all colors for drawing (1 window each), multiple 3D views for Modelling and CAD programs... I wonder how many of them have paid for the rights?

Re:Interesting. (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | about 7 years ago | (#20953349)

You might be onto something with CAD. I remember using AutoCAD in 1986 with it using two monitors. The patent was filed in 1987.

Re:Interesting. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20952913)

[...]As a result, the workspaces appear to be sharing a window.[...]
not sure but its pretty much the 'pinned in all workspaces/desktops' button/option every selfrespecting WM has...
that more than shows whats wrong with software patents...
srsly,who could not think of something like this...displaying the same window in all desktops using the same datastructures
is the biggest no-brainer of all simple-as-hell 'features' one implements as the core of a WM gets somewhat stable [and has multiple desktop suppport]
actually this might explain why M$ never had multiple desktops/a [really usable/usefull] window manager,
they're used to checking braindead gimmicks for patent rights

Re:Interesting. (4, Insightful)

russ1337 (938915) | about 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:Interesting. (1)

Orange Crush (934731) | about 7 years ago | (#20953067)

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. (3, Informative)

niiler (716140) | about 7 years ago | (#20953261)

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.

Re:Interesting. (1)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | about 7 years ago | (#20953269)

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 with Solaris.
Yes, this certainly smells of an action secretly run by Microsoft to try specifically to attack Linux. Novell was warned that they made a deal with the devil when they signed that deal with Microsoft. They aren't going to get much sympathy.

Re:Interesting. (1)

tzine3 (797293) | about 7 years ago | (#20953445)

Yes it is. But Microsoft should then be sued over the same patent for Microsoft Virtual Display Manager (MSVDM) an XP powertool it wrote and distributed.

About time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20952593)

Time to get this done and over with. I guess this will either be the precedent that will silence others or the beginning of the end for The Penguin.

Re:About time! (1)

fork_daemon (1122915) | about 7 years ago | (#20952969)

Time to get this done and over with. I guess this will either be the precedent that will silence others or the beginning of the end for The Penguin.
Not necessary the end for the Penguin. Workspaces are a GUI concept. Linux is a kernel. By the way Linux was born in Finland. So it should be free from US patent violation issues. But I might be wrong. I'm not a LAW grad.

If this doesn't stop EU swpatents nothing will (5, Interesting)

javilon (99157) | about 7 years ago | (#20952623)

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.

Re:If this doesn't stop EU swpatents nothing will (1)

crimperman (225941) | about 7 years ago | (#20952785)

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.

I've seen this mentioned a few times before. Is there any evidence to suggest that the EU would - if they ever accepted software patents - wholesale recognise patents filed with the US patent office.
If not and they do change the law then I predict an application rush as MS and hoardes of others file EU patents for things that they do not hold US patents for. In fact it wouldn't surprise me if MS had a stack of patent applications just waiting for the green light.

Thus the administrative workload alone would therefore hopefully make accepting software patents in the EU a bad idea.

Well we can hope can't we.

Re:If this doesn't stop EU swpatents nothing will (1)

CmdrGravy (645153) | about 7 years ago | (#20953003)

On the other hand if the patent office can charge enough to file patents such that it makes a proft then this is a very nice income stream to the EUs un-auditable coffers.

Gentlemen, start your editors... (1)

gillbates (106458) | about 7 years ago | (#20952641)

The patent race has begun.

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

Re:Gentlemen, start your editors... (3, Insightful)

FudRucker (866063) | about 7 years ago | (#20952979)

a workaround wont be necessary, there is prior art...

maybe you can write a letter to the editor...

Start of a patent war? (3, Interesting)

Pfhortytwo (1024837) | about 7 years ago | (#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:Start of a patent war? (2, Informative)

EzInKy (115248) | about 7 years ago | (#20952883)

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.

Re:Start of a patent war? (5, Funny)

jimicus (737525) | about 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:Start of a patent war? (1)

kid-noodle (669957) | about 7 years ago | (#20952937)

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?

Re:Start of a patent war? (1)

crush (19364) | about 7 years ago | (#20953101)

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 patent troll: a buch of sleazy fuck lawyers that buy patent rights and then sue anyone they can, hoping that they'll find a jury as dumb as the folks in Duluth.

The interesting thing about this case is that the aggressor (IP Innovation) appears to be a subsidiary of Acacia, who recently ... very recently ... hired two very senior Microsoft employees, the last hire being a specialist in so-called "IP law". So, is this company just a front for Microsoft? It's certainly mighty convenient.

The other VERY interesting facet of this is why Red Hat and Novell? It can easily be argued that just about any modern desktop environment would be open to such claims if the patent were taken seriously. It could just possibly be that Novell will be indemnified by Microsoft against this threat, thereby "proving" that if you don't buy GNU/Microsoft/Linux (aka Novell/OpenSUSE) then the patent lawyers will come after you.

Very convenient.

PJ points out no such thing (4, Informative)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 7 years ago | (#20952699)

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.

A couple of things I noticed (4, Interesting)

Trevin (570491) | about 7 years ago | (#20952755)

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.

Re:A couple of things I noticed (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20953029)

For patents filed/granted (not sure which) 1978-1995, which this one is, the date of expiry is the later of 20 years from filing or 17 years from when it was granted. The latter gives them until December next year.

Re:A couple of things I noticed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20953143)

Look before thee, for here I have a desk. And thou know it is a desk, for it has four legs and four corners, and top that is suitable for handling documents.
Now I shall divide this table into two areas, calling each of them a "workspace", doing different tasks on each.
Now watch the innovation, I shall make a drawer beneath the table which I can pull out in case I need the second "workspace".

Now run oh ye of little faith and find me a man in the 18th century who did perform a similar deed, for we shall call it Prior Art.

(Sorry if I misunderstood the patent but IANAL)

Re:A couple of things I noticed (1)

GrenDel Fuego (2558) | about 7 years ago | (#20953325)

Actually, I just did a bit of checking online: []

1. U.S. Patents filed after June 8, 1995 expire 20 years from the date of filing.

2. U.S. Patents filed prior to June 8, 1995 expire 17 years from the date of issue, or 20 years from the first non-provisional patent application in the family - whichever is later.

This patent was filed in 1987 and issued in 1991. So based on the filing date its already expired.

Re:A couple of things I noticed (1)

hasbeard (982620) | about 7 years ago | (#20953501)

Ok, if it's "whichever is later," then wouldn't the expiration be counted 17 years from when it was granted in 1991, making it expire in 2008?

Re:A couple of things I noticed (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 7 years ago | (#20953453)

IP Innovation LLC probably bought the patent. This is what makes their parent company, Acacia, a straight up patent troll: they only produce patent lawsuits. They don't develop software, they don't distribute software, they simply pervert the patent system by making money on other people's inventions without inventing anything of their own. Somehow, I find it to be very unlikely that the person who first thought of virtual desktops will get one penny out of any loss Red Hat will (hopefully never) suffer.

An Acacia subsidiary (4, Informative)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | about 7 years ago | (#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...

Re:An Acacia subsidiary - More Info (4, Insightful)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | about 7 years ago | (#20952851)

More info here [] .

So let's sum up: a California inventor moves his California shell company to Nevada, and then joins up with another California company, using an Illinois shell, to buy patents from Xerox and then assert them against a California company, a North Carolina company and a Massachusetts company. In Marshall, Texas.

Re:An Acacia subsidiary - More Info (1)

kooky45 (785515) | about 7 years ago | (#20953339)

Here in Europe that doesn't sound too strange, but from other a US perspective it's like... man from France, moves to Spain, starts company in Germany, buys patents from Italian company, and sues companies in Sweden, Norway and England. In Andora, Back'o'beyond.

Re:An Acacia subsidiary (4, Informative)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | about 7 years ago | (#20952869)

Make sure that you distinguish between "IP Innovations LLC" and "IP Innovation LLC". (Note the missing 's'). According to the Groklaw article these are two separate organizations. The one involved in this lawsuit is the one without the 's'. Sounds like we could have another round of "Is it SCO or Santa Cruz or The SCO Group or Caldera or..." thanks to the similarity in these names...

Mod parent UP (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | about 7 years ago | (#20952917)

Good spotting. Subtle and confusing though!

But wait... (5, Interesting)

gillbates (106458) | about 7 years ago | (#20952787)

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.

Re:But wait... (1)

CmdrGravy (645153) | about 7 years ago | (#20953089)

Novell didn't pay Microsoft anywhere near as much as Microsoft paid Novell. This would have no doubt happened anyway so why stop Microsoft throwing money at you for it ?

Re:But wait... (1)

FudRucker (866063) | about 7 years ago | (#20953105)

maybe this will make Novell/Linspire/Xandros a target for patent/IP lawsuits...

1.sue distros that sign with MS 2.MS steps in for the payoff 3.??? 4.profit!!!

Re:But wait... (2, Informative)

AvitarX (172628) | about 7 years ago | (#20953293)

Actually they got paid a lot of money.

They only pay money if MS generates them new revenue.

Re:But wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20953371)

"They paid a lot of money so that firms other than Microsoft could sue them for patent infringement." Well, except that Novell didn't pay but got paid. A small but important difference. But nonetheless interesting. What it says to the outside world is: Hey I'm Microsoft, if you make deals with us or not doesn't matter. We'll play foul nonetheless and send patent trolls after you.

Are they building up a war chest? (3, Insightful)

Mark19960 (539856) | about 7 years ago | (#20952799)

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.

Looser should pay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20952875)

all the legal and related costs - even if it is just for patent related lawsuits.

can i vote for a change in the law.

headline makes my head asplode (0, Redundant)

tomstdenis (446163) | about 7 years ago | (#20952921)

This is a suit against distributors and/or the X-org team. It has nothing to do with the Linux kernel. You could just as easily remove X11 from your system and still have a useful box (e.g. server).

That being said, these "IP warehouse" douchebags have got to fucking stop. How on earth did we do "$20 million" in damages to a company which didn't invest in the R&D, and doesn't sell products based on it. They probably acquired it for a couple million (joke).

That also being said, wtf. Not like multiple desktops/windows is a new X11 feature. Why sue now? I think there should be a statue of limitations on filing patent suits. Otherwise, this will just keep getting worse.

Re:headline makes my head asplode (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | about 7 years ago | (#20953321)

That also being said, wtf. Not like multiple desktops/windows is a new X11 feature. Why sue now?
From the Groklaw article:

So in July one Microsoft executive arrives; then as of October 1, there is the second, a patent guy. October 9, IP Innovation, a subsidiary, sues Red Hat. And Novell. So much for being Microsoft's little buddy.

Re:headline makes my head asplode (0, Troll)

tomstdenis (446163) | about 7 years ago | (#20953477)

Well I guess MSFT would be safe even if they didn't indirectly control it. Windows has never had multiple desktops because the joke OS that it is, is meant for toddlers anyways. :-)


Oh well, we know this won't go anywhere. We used multiple desktops on Sun boxes in the 80s [ok by we I mean my parents at BNR]. This will be brought down EPIC FAIL style.

oh noes the sky is falling (1)

slashpot (11017) | about 7 years ago | (#20952989)

Quick - Switch all your servers to FreeBSD/OpenBSD!!!!!

Smalltalk (1)

SpeedyRich (754676) | about 7 years ago | (#20952991)

Prior art, not referred to in the patent troller's application (or the original patent): Xerox PARC Smalltalk MVC, circa the 70's.


For the sake of IP innovations LLC... (2, Interesting)

mrjb (547783) | about 7 years ago | (#20953031)

...they better have deep pockets.

Re:For the sake of IP innovations LLC... (1)

PinkyDead (862370) | about 7 years ago | (#20953303)

They seem to: Balance Sheet []

Wait, sorry - my mistake, that's a different company, totally unrelated to this one.

comic strip idea (1)

icepick72 (834363) | about 7 years ago | (#20953043)

Rumor has it Darl McBride can be seen begging for change outside the doors of IP Innovation LLC.

Reading over some of those patents... (2, Funny)

lowlymarine (1172723) | about 7 years ago | (#20953059)

...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!

Patent fucking ridiculous too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20953099)

Now, I tend to consider all patents ridiculous, but this one is particularly so. It should never have been granted. It's obvious, and consists of a patent on the idea of windows showing up in multiple workspaces in the abstract, basically (though dressed up in incredibly verbose patentese and software-speak to disguise that). I'm almost certain prior art exists that should invalidate it - trouble would be digging it up in lawyer-acceptable form. Looking to ancient but then-innovative 80s systems like Amigas and Lisp Machines / Emacs should help.

None the less, a microsoft (or more precisely Ballmer, Gates &co. old boy network - eventually I'd expect they'll move on from microsoft totally, the process has already begun, and be the same enemy with a different name, a common trick to evade and misdirect criticism) nuisance lawsuit which will cost linux using corporations like Redhat and Novell millions, probably tens of millions, to defend against.

The patent system shouldn't be reformed. It should just be fucking erased.

Now wait for this (1)

bogaboga (793279) | about 7 years ago | (#20953163)

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.

oldest x-window-managers (1)

FudRucker (866063) | about 7 years ago | (#20953233)

isnt fvwm, vtwm, mwm all some of the oldest window managers for the x-window-system on the *nixes? isnt that glaringly obvious prior art?

Re:oldest x-window-managers (1)

sqldr (838964) | about 7 years ago | (#20953419)

isnt that glaringly obvious prior art?

Not prior to 1984. hmm.. 1984. how very apt.

Microsoft wins, and we get to live in a communist state under the communist government of microsoft, who giveth and taketh away the computer.

SCO II (1)

kisak (524062) | about 7 years ago | (#20953401)

If this is SCO II, I say good. Keep them comin'. For every SCO that bites the dust, linux and FOSS becomes stronger. For every long, drawn out court battle, laws are evaluated for their impact on FOSS and the business around FOSS. Afraid FOSS will lose you say? I don't worry one bit about it, governments all around the world is depending on FOSS, the internet is running on FOSS. If part of FOSS has to give in to some stupid law or interpretation of the law, the law will be changed.

Feel sorry for Red Hat et al that have to compete against players who play such low hand tactics as court battles. RH's money should better be used to improve their product, but then again, their effort will help the whole FOSS community gaining business acceptance and standing.

Microsoft Power Tools (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 7 years ago | (#20953409)

There's a Microsoft Power tool that mimics this behavior on Windows XP. Shouldn't they be suing Microsoft?

Total BS (1)

xgr3gx (1068984) | about 7 years ago | (#20953493)

If it's a Xerox patent from the 80's, doesn't that mean Microsoft is infringing on it as well? That would be hilarious if M$ ended up getting sued.
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