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A Reader’s Guide to the Red Hat/Firestar Settlement

Filed under
Linux
Legal

Last month, we announced that Red Hat had settled a patent infringement case with an agreement that was significant in fashioning a new model for protection for the open source community. In the agreement, we obtained coverage not only for Red Hat, but also for upstream and downstream members of the community involved in developing, using, modifying, and distributing code included in Red Hat’s products and in the community projects that Red Hat sponsors, including Fedora. We demonstrated that it is possible to satisfy the letter and spirit of GPL licensing in resolving patent litigation.

The free and open source software community is a spirited, independent-minded group of people who think for themselves. It is not surprising, therefore, that there have been numerous questions about the agreement and requests to make it publicly available. In the spirit of freedom and openness, we are happy to make the agreement public today here. We hope it will be a useful tool both in addressing existing legal threats and also in suggesting methods for addressing threats as yet unknown.

The agreement is, of course, a legal document. Some of the language is routine legal terminology, and some concerns the parties to the case and is of no general interest. On the other hand, the agreement has some important ideas expressed in terminology that may be unfamiliar to the non-lawyer reader, and so some explanation may be useful. Here are some pointers.

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Isn't this moot?

This is an interesting way for RedHat to try and "save some face", after their "secret" payoff to Firestar on a patent that was dubious from the start.
Now that Sun has requested the Firestar patent be invalidated, and considering the response from the PTO:
http://lwn.net/Articles/289747/
I guess this is the only way that Redmond...Er...RedHat has figured to try and save some respect.

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