While Red Hat has long worked to address the problem that software patents pose for innovation by promoting patent reform through legislative means throughout the world and submitting amicus briefs in important U.S. patent cases, we have also made clear that we have been developing a defensive patent portfolio to deter those not interested in the success of open source software from using their patents to attack Red Hat and the open source community. We believe that the possibility of a patent countersuit from Red Hat will dampen the enthusiasm of such competitors to open source software to use their patents aggressively against the open source community. With that goal in mind, we are pleased to learn that The Patent Board™, an independent company that regularly publishes a Patent Scorecard™ ranking the strength of the top 163 patent portfolios in the IT Industry, ranked Red Hat’s patent portfolio as the 50th strongest in the industry on March 11, 2011. This ranking reflects not only the growth in the number of patents Red Hat has obtained (now including 137 granted U.S. Patents), but also the quality of those patents.
The ranking of Red Hat’s patent portfolio as the 50th strongest in IT represents a jump of 16 spots from The Patent Board’s previous ranking on November 5, 2010. In producing its rankings, The Patent Board tracks the United States and European patent portfolios of more than 2,700 of the world’s top technology firms. Among the factors that The Patent Board tracks in its studies to produce these rankings are the following:
- Industry Impact™ indicates the extent to which others are building upon a portfolio of issued US utility patents as compared to the total set of utility patents.
- Technology Strength™ ranking measure to indicate an overall strength of the company’s patent portfolio holdings with a combined measure of quality and quantity.
The Patent Board has produced the following chart illustrating its tracking of these metrics against Red Hat’s patent portfolio over the past year (the lower number the better for Technology Strength™ Rank, the higher number the better for Industry Impact™):
While Red Hat is proud of this independent assessment of the strength of our patent portfolio, we remain committed to using our patent portfolio defensively in the interests of open source software. Specifically, Red Hat years ago pioneered a first-of-its-kind commitment to such defensive use in its Patent Promise, which is still the most comprehensive commitment of its kind by any technology company. Generally, our Patent Promise provides that the technology covered by any of our patents can be used by anyone in any software distributed under some of the leading open source licenses (including various versions of the GPL and LGPL), unless that person institutes patent litigation against Red Hat.
At the same time, Red Hat continues to fight for software patent reform. For example, Red Hat recently joined a large group of companies in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in February 2011 in the case of Microsoft v i4i Limited Partnership, explaining that the burden of proof that a patent challenger must meet to invalidate a patent impedes innovation and should be lowered. Red Hat also filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in October 2009 in the case of Bilski v. Kappos, asking the Supreme Court to exclude software from patentability.
We are pleased with the development of our patent portfolio. We will maintain our commitment to its defensive use in the interests of the open source community as we continue to be a voice representing the open source community on patent reform.