Google Takes $5M Hit In Bedrock Linux Patent Case

Google must pay $5 million (£3 million) in damages for infringing on a Linux patent owned by defunct company Bedrock Computer Technologies, according to a jury verdict in the Eastern District of Texas court April 15.

The patent is for “methods and apparatus for information storage and retrieval using a hashing technique with external chaining and on-the-fly removal of expired data”.

Bedrock – which filed its patent-infringement suit in 2009 against Google, Yahoo, MySpace,, PayPal and others – successfully argued that Google violated its patent by using its linked list storage, search and information-retrieval technology in Linux servers.

Superhighway Or A T(r)oll Road?

Patent analyst Florian Mueller said Bedrock identified its patented technology in a portion of the Linux kernel. Google and many other Internet companies use this technology in Linux servers housed in their data centres.

Google took a defiant position in a statement emailed to eWEEK April 21, vowing to continue to defend against such attacks on the open-source community.

“The recent explosion in patent litigation is turning the world’s information highway into a toll road, forcing companies to spend millions and millions of dollars defending old, questionable patent claims, and wasting resources that would be much better spent investing in new technologies for users and creating jobs,” Google said.

Google can presume to be also referring to Oracle’s current patent infringement lawsuit against the search giant, in which the software maker accused Google of infringing seven Java patents and other copyrights.

To wit, while the $5 million payout to Bedrock is a drop in the bucket for a company with $36.7 billion (£22.2 billion) in cash, Mueller believes this verdict could have greater implications for Google’s Linux-based Android operating system.

He suggested Google might have to modify the Linux kernel it distributes with Android in order to remove any infringing code that Android applications might use.

“More generally, this doesn’t bode well for the 41 Android-related patent-infringement suits that are going on at this stage,” Mueller wrote. “For example, if Google can’t defend itself successfully against one patent held by a little non-practicing entity from Texas, what does this mean for Oracle’s lawsuit over seven virtual machine patents?”

Open-source pundit Steven Vaughan-Nichols disagreed, arguing that the patent verdict was a “bad patent decision” by a court district that is prone to be friendly to patent trolls that patent technologies, and lie in wait for other companies to use the technology. He urged Google to appeal.

Bedrock, meanwhile, has called for an injunction against Google to stop it from using its software in its Linux servers.

Clint Boulton eWEEK USA 2012. Ziff Davis Enterprise Inc. All Rights Reserved

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