back to article Linux desktop org GNOME Foundation settles lawsuit with patent troll

The GNOME Foundation has settled a US lawsuit brought against it by Rothschild Patent Imaging, complete with an undertaking by the patent assertion entity that it will not sue GNOME for IP infringment again. In a so-called "walk away" settlement, Rothschild Patent Imaging (RPI) and the open-source body are discontinuing their …

  1. David 132 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    An excellent result

    To be brutally frank, public hanging/drawing/quartering/schwedentrunk of the patent trolls would have been even better, but alas, we live in an imperfect world.

    Congratulations to the GNOME foundation.

    1. Saruman the White

      Re: An excellent result

      I prefer boiling in oil - slowly, paying lots of attention to all of the very sensitive bits.

      Nothing is too much for a patent troll.

      1. David 132 Silver badge

        Re: An excellent result

        And oil’s so cheap at the moment too!

        Sorry for the crude humor... I’m normally much more refined.

        1. BenDwire Bronze badge

          Re: An excellent result

          I find your remarks inflammatory.

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: An excellent result

      For all patent trolls, I suggest Vlad the Impaler as their executioner if Pontius Pilate's boys are not available.

    3. I.S.
      Thumb Up

      Re: An excellent result

      I had to look up schwedentrunk, but I'm glad I did.

      1. don't you hate it when you lose your account Bronze badge

        Re: An excellent result

        The modern method involves forcing the victim to drink Budweiser.

        1. Someone Else Silver badge

          Re: An excellent result

          To clarify, that would be the American swill promulgated by the beverage monopolist-wannabee ImBev, not the original European stuff.

    4. Greybearded old scrote
      Thumb Down

      Re: An excellent result

      I disapprove of executions. They never remember how much it hurt afterwards.

      The best solution would be for them to be publicly beaten, and all patent trolls to see them have their toys confiscated.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: An excellent result

        When you are hanging/drawing/quartering you don't carry out the execution until the quartering phase...

        Personally I believe they should forfeit all patents, any money collected on them and be barred from ever owning any in the future either directly or indirectly.

    5. Robert Forsyth

      Re: An excellent result

      There must be some special hell for them, where they cannot do the most obvious thing like open a door with an ungloved hand.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: An excellent result

      Patent trolls? Sure RPI is a company that manages a patent portfolio, but in fairness (and I'm biting my lip here) one of the Rothschilds (I'm blindly assuming the same one) was involved in the photographic industry. I know someone that used to work for his company in this 80s/90s cutting and joining film (inc. porn). When digital came in and everything got cheap they changed their business.

  2. Blackjack Silver badge

    Patent law in the USA is just insane

    Not just for software, for freaking anything.

    1. Claverhouse Silver badge

      Re: Patent law in the USA is just insane

      Patent law in the USA is just insane

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: insanity

      Patent law in the USA is just insane

  3. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Good result

    These trolls are terrified of the idea that an organisation will fight as a matter of principle to get their crap patents invalidated.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Good result

      Yeah, it'd be nice to get the details of the "settlement". Gnome ended up not having to pay anything so either the RPI had a sudden attack of altruism or they realised it was going to court and realised the was a good chance of losing not just the case but probably a number of the patents.

      Although a good result for the Gnome Foundation, it leaves RPI to go after others with the same patents. I think the courts should have the power to reject out of court settlements and force the litigants to go ahead when there's a good chance of setting a precedent. (although IANAL and don't know if this would pass that test anyway)

    2. Roml0k

      Re: Good result

      Patent troll business models only function because paying the settlement is cheaper than going to court and paying lawyers.

      Since GNOME were defending the case out of principle, and because they had lawyers who were working for free, they could potentially keep the case going for a looooong time. I suspect the prospect of actually having to pay for some lawyering in court made the trolls settle ASAP.

  4. Charlie van Becelaere

    I'm not sure

    from reading the article whether GNOME paid anything to the trolls. I'm hoping they didn't, but my very close skimming of the text doesn't give me any certainty. Do we know? Did they pay some kind of permanent protection money, or are the trolls really afraid?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: I'm not sure

      At a guess maybe they were in a position to invalidate the patents if it went to court?

    2. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: I'm not sure

      The article’s since been updated to confirm that $0 was paid to obtain the settlement. So it’s unalloyed good news.

  5. gypsythief

    And thank the Imaginary Sky Fairy...

    ... that a bunch of money grubbing lovely helpful lawyers* were prepared to work on this pro bono. I strongly suspect that fending off patent trolls is way beyond the financial means of any open source project, so it's nice to see some hungry sharks lovely helpful lawyers* actually doing some good for a change.

    *I'm sure *some* of them are lovely. And helpful. Aren't they?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: And thank the Imaginary Sky Fairy...

      There'll be an NDA around this but the lawyers will have acquired detailed knowledge about the case and the patents. Next time the trolls go after a commercial entity they'd be the best lawyers to call on to defend. The bill would be along the lines of "£1 for hitting it, £999 for knowing where to hit" Multiplied up an appropriate number of times, of course.

    2. Tinslave_the_Barelegged

      Re: And thank the Imaginary Sky Fairy...

      > I strongly suspect that fending off patent trolls is way beyond the financial means of any open source project,

      From the article, it's likely that OIN got more involved than is suggested. That seems a real nuclear option, even just by suggestion, and one might hazard a guess that it's the bad guys who would need the inexhaustible lawyer-geld.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: And thank the Imaginary Sky Fairy...

        My understanding of the way OIN works is that they have a pool of patents which are licensed on non-aggression terms. A troll is unlikely to be using any of these in its own operations so OIN wouldn't be able to nuke them. They might, however, have the expertise to review the patents to invalidate them.

    3. baud Bronze badge

      Re: And thank the Imaginary Sky Fairy...

      > I'm sure *some* of them are lovely

      I know one American lawyer who's a lovely chap, so they do exist

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: And thank the Imaginary Sky Fairy...

        "I know one American lawyer who's a lovely chap, so they do exist"

        Could be a Jekyl and Hyde character though. Have you seen him at work? Esp. if you are on the other side? :-)

        1. baud Bronze badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: And thank the Imaginary Sky Fairy...

          I've never seen him at work, or even heard of any case he's worked on, so your theory could be true

  6. MiguelC Silver badge
    Meh

    I hope it's a good result

    I really hope they didn't, but nowhere in the article does it say that they didn't pay for the patent licensing.

    Call me sceptical, but the third and second-last paragraphs describe what they raised for this and what they seem to have negotiated in return...

    1. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

      Re: I hope it's a good result

      The pragmatist notes that, even if the lawyers were working for free, the hours of any organization's staff required to fight a legal action have value. I mean, if you have a task that would cost you $10K to do internally, or $8K to hire a consultant to do for you, it's obviously worth considering the consultant... and similarly if throwing that $8K at a troll shuts them up (permanently), it's probably smarter to pay them than to fight.

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

        Re: I hope it's a good result

        Quote

        and similarly if throwing that $8K at a troll shuts them up (permanently), it's probably smarter to pay them than to fight.

        Guess you've never heard of danegeld then.

        The dane will be back next year for more....

      2. Jon 37

        Re: I hope it's a good result

        Paying sets a precedent. If that's your policy, anyone can threaten you with a patent lawsuit that they stand no chance of winning, and then offer you a settlement that's less than the cost of litigation.

        Apparently the cost of litigating a patent lawsuit is in the region of $1m+, hence the trolls in this case asked for a 5-figure sum to go away.

        If your policy is to pay, that will be very expensive as lots of trolls line up to take your money.

        If your policy is to fight, get the patent invalidated, and get costs and damages from the troll, and if you have the resources to be able to follow through, then most trolls will run away rather than be destroyed. As happened in this case.

        1. Old Used Programmer

          Re: I hope it's a good result

          During the whole "SCO" vs IBM suit, it was mentioned that the general IBM policy is to just pay any claim of less than $10K and fight anything over that amount. To keep people from exploiting the policy, sometimes they *will* fight over amounts of less than $10K. It's kind of a case of, how lucky are you feeling today? Further, their lawyers were nicknamed the Nazgul.

      3. hmv Silver badge

        Re: I hope it's a good result

        There's a word for people who only pay attention to the costs and ignore the ethics - that's 'sociopath'.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A Rothschild bleeding a non-profit organisation dry?

    Who ever would've thought it???

    They didn't get rich by accident, you know!

    1. gerryg
      Big Brother

      Re: A Rothschild bleeding a non-profit organisation dry?

      Surely not anti-Semitism? I should report you to the Labour Party.

  8. Neil McGovern

    For those asking about payment...

    I can confirm we paid RPI and Leigh Rothschild a grand total of $0.00 for the settlement.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: For those asking about payment...

      Hmm... I'd rather pay them a dollar just to ensure there is good consideration for the bargain.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: For those asking about payment...

        Hmm... I'd rather pay them a dollar just to ensure there is good consideration for the bargain.

        Let them pay, they started the whole mess.

      2. vagabondo

        Re: Hmm... I'd rather pay them a dollar just to ensure there is good consideration for the bargain.

        That would be a de facto admission that the trolls had a valid claim to waive.

        Why not ask for a token (or real) amount to not pursue a suit against the trolls for threatening unfounded litigation?

    2. BenDwire Bronze badge

      Re: For those asking about payment...

      That's even better news. Well done to all concerned.

  9. Inkey
    Alert

    Good win for foss

    Nice to hear this.... Great job Gnome for standing up to the trolls....

  10. Dwarf Silver badge

    COVID-19

    Dear patent trolls, I hope you catch something nasty. The world will be a better place without you. Go and find a proper job - stack the shelves and do something productive for society rather than trying to suck the life out of it.

    I'm left wondering what do patent trolls tell their kids / grand kids that they do for the their day job and what do their kids think about that ???

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: COVID-19

      I'm left wondering what do patent trolls tell their kids / grand kids that they do for the their day job and what do their kids think about that

      I believe that, per the old joke, they tell their kids they play piano in a brothel... because there’s some shameful adult things you just can’t tell kids.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    impressive, but how ?

    "In an article comment on this story, McGovern said: "For those asking about payment, I can confirm we paid RPI and Leigh Rothschild a grand total of $0.00 for the settlement.""

    Very impressive, but since the whole point of patent trolls is to get money out of other companies, with legal threats, I'm wondering what causes the Gnome foundation to effectively win this ... Bigger legal threats maybe ?

    1. Tinslave_the_Barelegged

      Re: impressive, but how ?

      > Bigger legal threats maybe ?

      In the free software world's own TLA, the OIN.

    2. Boothy

      Re: impressive, but how ?

      I imagine turning up for a chat with RPI, and explaining that they'd engaged Shearman & Sterling, a near $1B revenue law firm, that's been around since 1873, and who has clients like Sony & Bank of America on their books, likely focused their mind a bit on the prospect of being able to win.

      Oh yes, and Shearman & Sterling are doing the work for free, how much is your legal team costing you?

      Also seems the patent itself is bogus, looks like a generic method of sorting images based on criteria such as a topic. I suspect the patent is too broad, and should never have been granted in the first place. (Fails the Alice test).

      I think RPI here have basically decided they can't risk court, as the patent would likely be revoked, thus automatically loosing the case, and of course risking their portfolio.

      The Electronic Frontier Foundation did a write up on the patent side here.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: impressive, but how ?

        It's a pity the US patent office isn't liable for everyone's costs when a patent they've granted fails at such a basic level. Not only would they tighten up immediately but there'd probably be a mad scramble looking for existing patents that should be revoked.

      2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: impressive, but how ?

        I imagine turning up for a chat with RPI, and explaining that they'd engaged Shearman & Sterling

        That is something you don't explain, in all meetings you are accompanied by your lawyer, who will force his/her business card on anyone who fails to tell him/her in a timely fashion of already having received such a business card.

    3. Neil McGovern

      Re: impressive, but how ?

      You'll need to wait until I've finished my book/talk about this, and had it cleared by lawyers. :)

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