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Google loses a $5 million Linux patent verdict

The absurdity of software patents bites
Tue Apr 26 2011, 10:05

SOFTWARE DEVELOPER Google has been found to have infringed a patent held by a private firm with code in its Linux codebase.

Bedrock Computer Technologies (BCT) managed to wrangle a verdict out of a Texas jury that not only gives it $5 million in damages from Google but, more worryingly, a possible foundation to launch other attacks on software that uses a relatively basic data structure. The patent in question relates to the use of a linked list data structure to expire data.

Google's battle against BCT was supported by Red Hat, one of the largest distributors of Linux, however its interaction with the court didn't yield the results Red Hat had hoped for. BCT, in the meantime, has all but shut up shop, with some claiming that it was only set up to acquire patents and pursue litigation.

Google is expected to appeal the decision, since the East Texas court in which the verdict was delivered has become notorious for upholding questionable patents. However it's not just the court that should be under the spotlight, as it almost beggars belief that a patent on such a fundamental and universally taught data structure, a linked list, was ever granted in the first place.

Technically if Google does lose any appeal, it could leave the door ajar for BCT to awake from its slumber and continue its patent litigation. However the ultimate losers will be all software developers, who might have to live in fear of facing litigation for implementing the most basic of programming concepts. µ

 

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