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Patent case against GNOME resolved (gnome.org)
71 points by thejosh 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 19 comments

The GNOME Foundation established a legal defense fund to fight this suit which has raised over $150,000. Their plea on the site soliciting donations states;

"GNOME, the free software desktop has been hit by a patent troll. It's the first time a free software project has been hit by this, and we want to send a message to all patent trolls out there - we will fight your suit, and we will have your patent invalidated."

It is disappointing to see the GNOME Foundation settle in this manner rather than pursue the patent invalidation case fully as implied in their fund raising site and pretty explicitly in the blog post announcing the fund. I imagine a significant number of donors will also be disappointed making trying to raise such funds for any future defense more difficult.

While I understand the financial motivation to settle in this way - getting these bogus patents invalidated takes a lot of lawyer time/money - reading this piece of fluff does leave a nasty aftertaste, almost as if those Rothschild Patent Imaging, and Leigh M. Rothschild are anything but the bottom-feeding pond scum detritus that they really are.

Well, you have to read between the lines a lot on these kinds of announcements, but what I see is a massive win for Gnome:

GNOME receives a release and covenant not to be sued for any patent held by Rothschild Patent Imaging. Further, both Rothschild Patent Imaging and Leigh Rothschild are granting a release and covenant to any software that is released under an existing Open Source Initiative approved license (and subsequent versions thereof), including for the entire Rothschild portfolio of patents, to the extent such software forms a material part of the infringement allegation.

I think most people can see it is a win for GNOME but it is far short of the goal the GNOME Foundation proclaimed when it went out raising money.

Invalidating a patent does take a lot of lawyer time/money but the GNOME Foundation set a funding goal of $125k when it announced doing so was an aim of the defense fund which certainly conveys that they believe that level of funding would make it possible. Something they certainly would have conferred with their legal team regarding. They exceeded that goal by $25k.

Gnome Foundation should give the money back.

Neil McGovern says that the outcome is much better than invalidation of a single patent:


Maybe the patent was stronger than they first thought.

I don't understand the negative reactions here.

Gnome got Rothschild to agree to never sue another open-source project again. That's a huge concession and an outcome that's arguably better than a few invalidated patents.

I guess that depends how much of the Rothschild portfolio is applicable against open source software. A few invalidated patents, plus a strong message that trying to put a FOSS project through the ringer will get your patent invalidated could be far more powerful than just one promise from one entity.

Also, there's a question of how widely this legally binding promise is... will it apply to anyone else who wants to buy these patents?

There are lots of things I don't understand about this:

- GNOME raised lots of money to help fight this case [1] - yet the lawyers supposedly worked on it pro-bono. So is there an implication that this money has instead gone straight to the patent troll's pockets, or will the GNOME project get the benefit of that money? Are there associated costs of the litigation that could easily consume the $150K?

- They have claimed that no OSI-licence-approved project will be sued. They have not prevented closed-source projects from getting sued, and presumably any closed-source project that makes use of open source components will still be sue-able? For example, a kiosk app that is delivered with a GNOME-based distribution would be completely unprotected, presuming they distribute this software?

- This patent is likely very invalid [2] - so it is very much not in Rothschild's interest to have this case see the light of court - so how did we get to this point?

I'm not expecting any official answers here of course, but the whole thing is exasperating

[1]: https://secure.givelively.org/donate/gnome-foundation-inc/gn...

[2]: https://www.patentprogress.org/2019/09/26/mythical-troll-att...

> So is there an implication that this money has instead gone straight to the patent troll's pockets

Neil McGovern said elsewhere┬╣ that GNOME "have not paid RPI or Leigh Rothschild for this settlement".

┬╣ https://lwn.net/Articles/821137/

Hadn't seen that. Good to hear.

Lawyers may work pro-bono, but that doesn't make court cases free. There are expenses besides the lawyers' time; those expenses add up.

How did we get to this point? How does a bluffer get burned in a poker game? By trying to bluff too long.

Nothing says you support open source causes like suing them

I don't understand who is happy in all this since 10 month of work are lost on basically nothing?

Why pro-bono? Doesn't Red Hat make lots of money?

The GNOME Project does not belong to Red Hat. They are just one of many sponsors.

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