Red Hat Puts Patent Issue to Rest

June 11, 2008

by Legal Team

Today Red Hat announced the settlement of patent litigation involving Firestar Software, Inc. and DataTern, Inc. Below is a detailed FAQ with additional information about today’s news.

  1. What was the lawsuit against Red Hat about?

    The lawsuit was originally filed by Firestar Software, Inc. (“Firestar”) in 2006 in federal court in the Eastern District of Texas (Civil Action No. 2-06CV-258). It alleged violation of U.S. Patent No. 6,101,502 (“’502 patent”), which relates to a method for interfacing an object-oriented software application with a relational database to facilitate access to the relational database. Firestar contended that Hibernate, a JBoss product, infringed the ’502 patent. Red Hat denied that allegation and vigorously contested the claim.

  2. What happened in course of the the lawsuit?

    Red Hat defended on the basis that its products had not infringed the patent and that the patent was invalid. The parties exchanged information and numerous documents in discovery. Issues related to construction of the patent claims were briefed and an argument before the federal court was scheduled. The ’502 patent was assigned by Firestar to DataTern, Inc. (“DataTern”), which thereafter became involved in the lawsuit. Shortly before the argument, the parties agreed on settlement terms.

  3. Who is involved in the settlement?

    DataTern and Amphion Innovations PLC (“Amphion”), on the one hand, and Red Hat, on the other.

  4. What is the significance of the settlement?

    Like most settlements, this one ends the specific lawsuit between the parties, but it does much more than that. It assures that upstream developers are protected against patent suits by DataTern and Amphion with respect to projects incorporated into Red Hat products. In addition, our distributors, customers, and anyone else who uses Red Hat products are protected with respect to Red Hat products. This broad coverage is a significant benefit to the open source community.

  5. What products are covered?

    All products distributed under a Red Hat brand are covered, as well as upstream predecessor versions of those products. In addition, derivative works of or combination products using covered products are protected from any patent claim based in any respect on the covered products.

  6. What does this mean for Linux?

    The lawsuit did not make any claim that Red Hat Enterprise Linux infringed the patent. There appeared to be no basis for any such claim, but the settlement covers all Red Hat products.

  7. What does this mean for Red Hat customers?

    With this settlement, Red Hat has again demonstrated its commitment to making open source software safer and easier to use. Under the settlement, customers receive a license that grants a perpetual, fully paid-up, royalty-free, irrevocable worldwide license to the patents in suit to engage in any and all activities with respect to Red Hat products. Customers also receive a perpetual covenant not to sue with regard to all of DataTern’s and Amphion’s other patents on claims related to Red Hat products. The settlement will therefore provide a defense that should prevent DataTern and Amphion from bringing similar suits against any Red Hat customer based on use of a Red Hat product. And Red Hat’s customers will continue to offer and provide the Red Hat Open Assurance Policy.

  8. What does the settlement mean for developers?

    Upstream developers receive a perpetual, fully paid-up, royalty-free, irrevocable worldwide license to the patents in suit to engage in any and all activities with respect to a predecessor version of a Red Hat product. Those developers also receive a perpetual covenant not to sue with regard to all of DataTern’s and Amphion’s other patents on claims related to Red Hat products.

  9. What does this mean for the community?

    The settlement should encourage the open source community by providing broad protection as to the patents covered by the agreement. More generally, the settlement demonstrates Red Hat’s commitment to standing up for the community against patent aggressors. We believe it will serve as a precedent that should discourage future similar cases.

  10. Does this settlement relate to other IP claims by parties like Microsoft?

    To our knowledge, the settlement does not relate to Microsoft.

  11. Does the settlement relate to any other lawsuits?

    DataTern filed another patent lawsuit, Civil Action No. 5-08CV-70, in April 2008 in federal court in the Eastern District of Texas naming Red Hat and several other companies as defendants. It alleges infringement of U.S. Patent No. 5,937,402. In negotiating the settlement of the suit originally filed by Firestar, Red Hat sought complete peace with regard to the parties in the suit, and so it insisted that the license and release terms cover other patents owned by DataTern and Amphion. As a result, this recent suit against Red Hat will also be dismissed.

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