Google Sued Over Patents On Open Source Code
from the bad-reporting dept
We’ve discussed in the past how reporters often contribute to misconceptions about the patent system and patent disputes. They commonly report that those sued for infringement are accused of “copying” or “taking” an invention from another company, when it’s much more common for infringement lawsuits to involve independent invention. Now we’ve got another example. Red Bend Software is the latest in a long list of companies suing Google for patent infringement, claiming that Google violates its patent 6,546,552 on “difference extraction between two versions of data-tables containing intra-references.”
Specifically, Red Bend claims that Google’s Chrome browser violates this patent by including an algorithm, called Courgette, that lets Google push compressed software updates. Of course, plenty of companies have come up with various ways to push compressed software updates over the years, so I’m at a loss as to why it requires a patent… but that’s a different issue. The problem here is the reporting on this lawsuit by Mass High Tech and reporter Galen Moore. First, he claims that this lawsuit suggests Google’s “open-source Chrome browser isn’t so open source after all.” Huh? I’ve read that sentence over and over again and I can’t figure out how a patent dispute would mean that Chrome isn’t open source. This kind of reporting suggests that a patent simply wipes out the type of license covering a software.
The second questionable bit is in talking about how Red Bend (like plenty of patent holders putting forth lawsuits) is claiming willful infringement, which gives a company triple damages if found to be true. So what’s the evidence of “willful infringement.” A claim that “Google has known about the conflicting patent since September 7.” September 7th? That’s a month and a half ago. The patent was issued in 2003. And Courgette was first used in July. It’s difficult to see how anyone could claim with a straight face willful infringement when you just informed them of your patent, and that happened after the software was already in use. You don’t even need to know much about patents to at least point these facts out.
But, of course, you wouldn’t know any of that from the article. Instead, your average reader would likely read this, thinking that Google somehow “took” this invention from Red Bend and that somehow negates Google’s “open source” license on Chrome.