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Texas Jury Duns Google $5 Million in Linux Case

Mueller says the decision also has “ramifications for Google’s Linux-based Android mobile operating system”

Google has been ordered to pay $5 million by an East Texas jury that found for Bedrock Computer Technologies LLC in an almost two-year-old Linux-related patent case.

The jury found the patent valid.

Patent watcher Florian Mueller, who broke the story, says the case has "major implications for the IT industry in general and for Linux in particular...Many companies using Linux have already been required by the patent holder to pay royalties, and many more will now, based on this jury verdict, elect to pay."

Mueller says the decision also has "ramifications for Google's Linux-based Android mobile operating system."

Seems Google may have to "modify the Linux kernel it distributes with Android in order to remove the infringing code because otherwise there's always the risk of contributory infringement should any app make use of that portion of the Linux kernel." There may be hundreds of thousands of Android apps out there that infringe.

Red Hat intervened in the case to get the largely server-related storage and retrieval patent (US Patent No. 5,893,120) invalided because several of its customers like Yahoo, MySpace, Amazon, PayPal, Match.com and AOL were also sued for using the Linux kernel, the core of the Google server farm. A couple of them already settled.

However, the Google case apparently came up first.

Google's lingering problem appears to be that Bedrock asked for an injunction and might be able to get royalties from other people using Linux in large server operations.

Mueller recalls that Red Hat "previously had to pay royalties to patent holders, but in connection with JBoss, not Linux" although this may be a case "in which Red Hat will feel forced to pay patent royalties on GPL'd software, and in this case, on Linux itself."

He says, "This doesn't bode well for the 41 Android-related patent infringement suits that are going on at this stage...If Google can't defend itself successfully against one patent held by a little non-practicing entity from Texas, what does this mean for Oracle's lawsuit over seven virtual machine patents? This shows that having deep pockets to afford the best lawyers isn't enough."

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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