Wednesday, 01 December 2010 10:03

Red Hat evades query about Acacia patent deal

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JBoss developers will continue to have sleepless nights after Red Hat, the biggest GNU/Linux company, evaded a query about its patent deal with Acacia, a firm that can only be described as a patent troll.


It is nearly two months since Red Hat settled a case with Acacia over alleged patent infringement in JBoss, software that Red Hat owns.

Noted open source advocate Bruce Perens raised the issue on November 12, questioning what motive lay behind Red Hat's secrecy.

He contrasted the company's attitude about the case to a similar one in 2007, also involving Acacia, the details of which had been made public when the patents in question were invalidated by a court.

The patent which was in question was owned by Software Tree Inc. Acacia acquired Software Tree's patent portfolio, and formed a subsidiary Software Tree LLC which does patent enforcement.

According to Perens, the patent "essentially claims invention of the object-relational database paradigm. In that paradigm, an object in an object-oriented software language represents a database record, and the attributes of the object represent fields in the database, making it possible for programmers to access a database without writing any SQL. It's a common element in most web programming environments today."

His concern was because JBoss is released under the LGPL, a licence that prohibits one party from licensing a patent unless the same rights apply to all developers of the software.

Perens did not attempt to contact the company but iTWire did. It made little difference; apparently open source is good for some things, not for others.

The query was simple: "Would Red Hat like to comment on Perens' allegations? Would the company like to make the terms of the deal available to iTWire? Or do I accept Perens' allegations as holding substance?"

It took two weeks of waiting but when a response arrived, it was meaningless.

""Red Hat routinely addresses attempts to impede the innovative forces of open source via allegations of patent infringement," ran the reply, routed through its PR company in Australia

"We can confirm that Red Hat, Inc and Software Tree LLC have settled patent litigation that was pending in federal court in the Eastern District of Texas (Civil Action No. 6:09-cv-00097-LED)."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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