Red Hat’s Secret Patent Deal
When patent troll Acacia sued Red Hat in 2007, it ended with a bang: Acacia’s patents were invalidated by the court, and all software developers, open-source or not, had one less legal risk to cope with. So, why is the outcome of Red Hat’s next tangle with Acacia being kept secret, and how is a Texas court helping to keep it that way? Could the outcome have placed Red Hat in violation of the open-source licenses on its own product?
The suit in question — Software Tree LLC v. Red Hat, Inc. – claimed that JBoss, the well-known Java web software, infringed upon U.S. Patent No. 6163776 (PDF), which essentially claims invention of the object-relational database paradigm. In that paradigm, an object in an object-oriented software language represents a database record, and the attributes of the object represent fields in the database, making it possible for programmers to access a database without writing any SQL. It’s a common element in most web programming environments today.