The conclusion of a suit filed against Google in 2009 by Bedrock Computer Technologies(a company accused of being a patent troll) has been decided. The jury decided that Google’s use of the Linux kernel in its servers was infringing on a Linux patent. The court ruled that Google should pay 5 million dollars for the infingment.
This ruling is interesting because Linux is widely used in the open source community and the finding of infringement has implications for other users of open source software. The ruling could hurt Google in other patent lawsuits regarding Android software, which also makes use of the Linux kernel. Bedrock also has pending cases against Yahoo, Paypal, Myspace, Amazon and other companies. While the ruling was only for 5 million dolllars it shows that Bedrock may be successful in suing many others who use the Linux kernel. It could open the door to more software patent trolling.
The troubling thing about the ruling is that the use of the Linux kernel on Google’s servers was considered infringing. Bedrock could use this ruling as grounds to file suit against a huge number of open source users who use Linux effectively taxing anyone who uses the software. Oddly enough the patent lawyer responsible for the activities of Bedrock in this instance also works with PubPat, an organization that works against undeserved patents and bad patent policy. This is either highly ironic or a shrewd attempt to make a public example of how flawed the current patent policies are. But, as things stand now Google has been trolled to the tune of 5 million.
The docket naming other defendants in the case can be found here.