A jury in Texas ruled against Google last week in a Linux patent infringement lawsuit and ordered the search engine giant to pay $5 million.
|Tux the penguin, mascot of Linux as originally drawn by Larry Ewing|
The suit, which alleged some of Google's use of open-source Linux code in its server platform amounted to patent infringement, is likely to open a Pandora's box of similar suits against companies around the world that use Linux technology and other open-source systems, say analysts.
This, they aver, is because several businesses employ various elements of Linux in their operations or products that could be affected by the jury's verdict. For example, Google's rapidly growing Android mobile operating system, also Linux-based, has led to the creation of various versions of software architecture, which could end up being classified as infringements, as a conmsequence of this suit.
Interstingly, the verdict has led to an outburst against the plaintiff, Bedrock Computer Technologies, which had filed the suit in June 2009. Bedrock had also named as defendants other prominent businesses that had created software built around the core of the Linux open source operating system for their commercial use. Yahoo! Inc., MySpace Inc., Amazon.com Inc., PayPal Inc., Match.com, Inc., AOL LLC and CME Group Inc, were also named defendents in that suit.
The suit had also named two other tiny companies based in the Eastern District of Texas - Softlayer Technologies, Inc., in Plano, and CitiWare Open Source Technologies - to justify its choice of Texas as a venue since none of the other better known companies are based in the state. The inclusion of these two companies gave the court in Texas, widely regarded as a plaintiff-friendly state, the jurisdiction to hear the suit.
Commentators say the question is not of $5 million, which for Google is "small change". They say that by virtue of its victory in Texas, Bedrock could now be in a position to claim that several businesses globally, who use Linux servers, are infringing on the same patent, even though their work may have absolutely nothing to do with this patent and create a new royalty cost for any business using Linux.