Red Hat Settles Patent Case With Acacia… But Won't Share The Details

from the too-bad dept

Of the software companies out there, Red Hat has been the most aggressive in fighting against software patents. It’s stood up on principle, and earlier this year even won a lawsuit from one of Acacia’s many, many shell companies (and it won in East Texas too, making it that much more impressive). However, Slashdot points us to the news that, in another lawsuit involving another Acacia shell company (this time, called Software Tree) it looks like Red Hat has settled — and, unfortunately, it’s keeping pretty quiet about what happened. I’m sure that’s part of the terms that Acacia negotiated (patent hoarders never want the details of settlements released), but it’s unfortunate, because it leaves everyone else in the dark, and lets Acacia continue to shake down others with this patent. The patent in question (6,163,776) covers “System and method for exchanging data and commands between an object oriented system and a relational system,” because, you know, without patents, no one would have ever figured that out.

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Companies: acacia, red hat

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Comments on “Red Hat Settles Patent Case With Acacia… But Won't Share The Details”

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Ronald J Riley (profile) says:

Sticky Fingered Infringers

“patent hoarders never want the details of settlements released”

Come on Mike, it really is patent infringers who do not want everyone to know the details of how they were caught red handed with their sticky fingers in others patent cookie jar.

Ronald J. Riley,

Speaking only on my own behalf.
President – – RJR at
Executive Director – – RJR at
Senior Fellow –
President – Alliance for American Innovation
Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
Washington, DC
Direct (810) 597-0194 – (202) 318-1595 – 9 am to 8 pm EST.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Double-Cross and Double-Cross.

Whenever a large company buys a license to a dubious patent, I always suspect ulterior motives. Take a look at Clark R. Mollenhoff, _Atanasoff: Forgotten Father of the Computer_, 1988, to get an idea of IBM’s misconduct in the original computer patent case. If you recall, the original patent was filed by Presper Eckert and John Mauchley in 1947, and assigned to their eventual employer, Univac (now Unisys), and actually issued in 1964, via standard continuation patent methods. Mauchley had actually visited John V. Atanasoff in Ames, Iowa, in 1941, and been his houseguest, before he, Mauchley, got involved in building computers, or any other war work, and apart from any other offense, he certainly abused Atanasoff’s hospitality. IBM’s lawyers eventually found out about Atanasoff in 1954, interviewed him and looked at his documents (Atanasoff was a pack rat). However, IBM did not publish the information gained, or present it to a court, but used it for private leverage in negotiating a license for approximately the probable cost of litigation. Univac then went on to sue two other computer firms, Honeywell and Control Data, which IBM did not mind having cut down to size. So I don’t think that a company taking a license proves a damm thing.

There was an element of grudge match in the suit against Control Data. Control Data had been founded by a man named William Norris, who had been part of “Arlington Hall” (“Nebraska Avenue”), the Second World War code-breaking project which was the American equivalent of Bletchley Park (Ultra) in England. At the end of the war, Norris led his troops off to form a company known as Engineering Research Associates, in Minneapolis. The moneymen merged them into Univac, but the Mauchley team and the Norris team didn’t get on, so Norris took his people over the hill to form Control Data. At any rate, the defendant companies also found Atanasoff, circa 1967, and defended themselves in a trial, which, including the preliminaries, lasted from 1968 to 1973, and ended in the finding that Atanasoff had invented the computer in 1939-41.

That said, when Microsoft settles with all kinds of patent-holders, there is an element of: “Hey, we’ll pay you to go and sue those guys, instead.” Patent trolls work for Microsoft, and the only real point of dispute is how much they are to be paid. Red Hat is getting to the point where it may have something of an inferiority complex about Ubuntu.


Software patents tend to be a lot flimsier than mechanical patents. Part of the reason is the qualification of examiners. For historical reasons, Computer Science degrees are not as rigorous as Engineering degrees. This is not applicable in a place like MIT or Caltech, where the students are all workaholics,and are doing original research by their junior year, but the patent office does not recruit at places like MIT or Caltech. The Patent Office recruits at places like Clemson, and the minimal requirements laid down by the professional societies determine what students are required to learn. Roughly speaking, a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering represents about the same standard of rigor as a M.S. in Computer Science.

The level that a M.S. in Computer Science represents, the same level represented by the B.S. in Mechanical engineering, is that of someone who has been forced to learn a lot of different styles of engineering, even those he does not find congenial, rather than just one style. This of course develops the encyclopedic mind. An encyclopedic mind happens to be a valuable thing for an upright patent examiner, because it gives him a sixth sense that a particular patent application is not quite kosher, and, playing a hunch, he knows enough to go looking for evidence.

Of course there is the Computer Engineering degree, but that is essentially an Electrical Engineering degree with a taste of Computer Science tacked on. Computer Engineering majors get hired in preferences to Computer Science majors, but that is not because they know more Computer Science. Rather, it is due to a belief that someone who got through Thermodynamics, and Statics and Dynamics, and Electromagnetics must be pretty smart.

The men who founded Computer Science departments, people like Arthur W. Burks at Michigan, wanted Computer Science to be a kind of quantitative liberal art. They didn’t expect students to learn all there was to know about computer programming, but they hoped that students would do something on the outside. That is, students would learn about Invertebrate Biology or Greek Lyric Poetry, and would then turn around and use Computer Science to illuminate Invertebrate Biology or Greek Lyric Poetry. The computer science professors only required students to learn those parts of Computer Science which were most obviously useful. This didn’t work out very well in practice. As computers became more widely available, people who merely wanted to program didn’t need to go to college to learn to do it. The people who turned up in the Computer Science department’s intake tended not to be the polymaths the department had been intended for, but merely people who wanted to acquire a technical profession with less work than would be required for an engineering degree. People like that were not interested in Invertebrate Biology or Greek Lyric Poetry, or much of anything else. They took a lot of freshman-level survey courses in standard areas, and when they graduated, went looking for upscale clerk’s jobs– such as that of Patent Examiner.

For political reasons, the Federal Civil Service has to treat degrees the same according to their nominal level. A bachelor’s degree has to be rated GS-5, and a masters degree has to be rated GS-9, whatever the subject. The result is that patent examining is a bit weaker in computer software than it is in a more mechanical field.

To: Ronald J. Riley:

If you will look in the Slashdot thread, you will note that already at least one “prior artist” has surfaced, who is willing to swear to having done it first.

There is also a list of earlier commercial products:

More fundamentally, looking at the matter under KSR v. Teleflex, there is an established practice of “migrating” data structuring and abstraction methods from the level of variables (temporary storage, under the control of the application program) to the level of files and databases (permanent storage under the control of an operating system component). I think one can make a good case that, given some kind of feature such as object-orientation, it was obvious to extend it from the temporary storage to the permanent storage. There were some operating systems twenty and thirty years ago which blurred the distinction between temporary storage and permanent storage (I believe, the Pick operating system, though I would have to check the reference).

darryl says:

Patents, the GPL, and RH's clear guilt..

“System and method for exchanging data and commands between an object oriented system and a relational system,” because, you know, without patents, no one would have ever figured that out.

Clearly Redhad Could not figure it out !!!, because they DIDNT FIGURE IT OUT..

No they could certainly NOT figure it out, so they did the next best thing, in the open source way and used someone elses method to do it..

Even Red Hat GETS IT MIKE, everyone gets it, it appears except you.

RH settled, they are not probably paying license fees, (in breach of the GPL), sooner or later if you are tool bone lazy to develop you’re own technology, and just rely on stealing everyone elses. Then it WILL catch up with you, and the massive amount of patent litigation particularly aimed at Open Source, is quite telling.

So everyone agrees what RH stole that patent, it was not obvious, it was not prior knowledge, it was plain ordinary THEFT.

They got caught, and they payed up.

The ONLY person who appears to not understand what has happend is YOU Mike :).. but thats expected.

So now that Red Hats products are ‘tainted’ with patents, that is violation of the GPL, does that mean that RH will have to abondon the GPL, or just live in sin with Stallman ?

Shadow Six (profile) says:

Re: Patents, the GPL, and RH's clear guilt..

Wow, ok.. you’re misrepresenting a number of facts here.

1. the GPL v2 has an implied patent grant, the GPL v3 has an explicit grant. Meaning that your software cant be tainted if using the GPL as your license.

2. Sigh,no, RedHat does not “get it” as you imply “support software patents”. They were sued by this NPE and took em’ to task. Then the company simply offered to end the dispute if they’d call it a “settlement” and Acacia could move on to the next chump who would just pay up without a lengthy trial that could very well end up like the first Redhat trial, where they lost the junk patent. See how that works? Acacia wants fast settlement money, not hard fought risky litigation.

3. How old are you? You argue like a teenage kid who’s just learning to belong to something and runs around writing “TEAM JACOB RUULEZ!!” on every bathroom wall.

~ great job!!

staff-infection (profile) says:

Re: what you will

If you would like to know more about how lobbyists like “staff” and “angrydude” are working to convince people that the asinine patents coming out of the system are as American as apple pie, you should visit before looking at unbiased facts. Then decide for yourself, just keep in mind that they’re in business to “help inventors” so they have incentive to keep the system in it’s current state, where in, the bar for receiving a patent is so ridiculously low that they can get anyone with an idea into the patent process. There are very few people in the software engineering community that would deny that the system is broken, and needs immediate retroactive reform, to stop “one click” imagination patents. They’re costing tens of BILLIONS every year, and are transferring that wealth into the hands of those that seek to further erode the patent system.

While visiting their site, be sure to note that many of the “facts” are half-truths, skewed or have since been resolved in such a way, that weakens their position, and so they neglect to update them. They also, forget to mention that the system was broken only 10 years ago, when the government got swept up in the “idea economy” mantra of of the dot com gold rush and decided that people could patent ideas as a process. The investment banks realized their folly and adjusted their policies. However it’s A LOT harder for the government to pull back entitlements…

LZ7 (profile) says:

Re: Masnik is a tool

You wrote:

“We are in the process of converting InventorEd to Drupal at this time. InventorEd services people all over the world, many of whom are using older computers and may be on dialup or radio link communications (outback) which are costly. So InventorEd was intentionally designed for low bandwidth. And yes, it was designed starting in the 1990s and has been through two major updates. It was created in raw html initially and then maintained with Front Page because doing so was easy. And yes, I do realize that Front Page produces crappy code but with over 700 web pages on the site expediency trumped the code issue.

PIAUSA serves as an example of how open source can be a very poor value. It is based on EZ Publish, an atrocious piece of bloated crap. We paid for commercial use and I have to say that it never delivered on the claims. When we are finished with InventorEd we will also be converting PIAUSA to Drupal.

I have nothing against open source except for the fact that much of it is worth exactly what people pay and the entitlement mentality of those in the community who think that they should be able to pilfer others intellectual property to use as a loss leader to generate consulting fees.

Ronald J. Riley,

Drupal *is* opensource you dullard. Just admit it, you don’t know what the hell your talking about. You wave your banners and keep reciting the pamphlet you picked up at the patent clerk’s office. Never admitting the obvious because if it weren’t for dogma you’d have a hard time supporting the system that pays your bar tab…

Ronald J Riley (profile) says:

Re: Masnik is a tool

Open source ends up being similar to a pyramid scheme. Many work for nothing while a few reap big rewards.

Ronald J. Riley,

Speaking only on my own behalf.
President – – RJR at
Executive Director – – RJR at
Senior Fellow –
President – Alliance for American Innovation
Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
Washington, DC
Direct (810) 597-0194 – (202) 318-1595 – 9 am to 8 pm EST.

Bruce Burdick (profile) says:

Masnik is not a tool, Masnik is just wrong

Mike, equating a patent title to a patent claim in order to imply a valid patent is obvious. Red Hat paid because they could not bust the patent and infringed. Simple as that. Acacia by buying the patent gave the inventor or patent owner a reward and promotes the progress of the useful arts. That encourages that inventor and other inventors to invent and that promotes progress. You can’t deny the patented subject matter was useful as Red Hat was apparently using it and had to settle. Good patent. Good outcome.

I disagree that open source is a pyramid scheme were only a few benefit. All those many who use the software for free to do great things benefit and those they benefit by their work also benefit. For example I have used for several years and see no reason to use MS Office any longer. I benefit, my clients benefit.

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