Saturday, April 23, 2011

Google fined $5m over Linux patent row

A person holding an HTC Desire mobile phoneA judgement by a Texas jury against Google could have major implications for the search giant and the open source world said experts.

The internet titan was found guilty of infringing a patent related to the Linux kernel and fined $5m (£3.2m).

The software is used by Google for its server platforms and could also extend to its Android mobile platform.

The kernel is at the core of the open-source operating system meaning this verdict could be far-reaching.

The case resulted in a victory for a firm called Bedrock Computer Technologies which has also sued Yahoo, MySpace, Amazon, PayPal, Match.com and AOL.

"The amount of the fine is not what makes this an important issue," intellectual property activist Florian Mueller told BBC News.

"This is a modest amount considering Google is probably the largest scale Linux user in the world.

"The implication here is really that there is a huge number of Linux users who will be required to pay royalties if this patent holder knocks on their doors in the US. This is definitely a major impediment to the growth of Linux and makes companies, including Google, that rely on open source code particularly vulnerable to patent threats."

That is also the view of other industry watchers who expect a flood of lawsuits against companies who rely on open source code.

"Those looking to cash in on buried patents need only spend time poring over code and looking for infringements," said Christopher Dawson of technology blog ZDNet.

"It costs a lot less than $5m to hire a team of programmers in India to do code review. This, I'm afraid, is just the beginning and stands to do a fair amount of harm to industry momentum and to the private companies that provide vast incentive for the advancement of open source software."


But Google has said it will continue to defend against such attacks like this one on the open source community.

"The recent explosion in patent litigation is turning the world's information highway into a toll road, forcing companies to spend millions and millions of dollars defending old, questionable patent claims and wasting resources that would be much better spent investing in new technologies for users and creating jobs," said Google. ...

via BBC News - Google fined $5m over Linux patent row.

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