In case you’ve haven’t yet read about Red Hat’s latest patent settlement, go have a look at PJ’s always excellent analysis at Groklaw. Also, Red Hat’s brilliant semi-retired ex-general counsel Mark Webbink weighs in.
I’m working on a screenplay about the whole affair. I’m not sure who will play the role of Red Hat counsel yet, but I’m pretty sure that the Patent Troll will be played by Dan Hedaya.
Obviously, this is a work of fiction. But it’s based on a true story. 🙂
Patent Troll: Halt, there! You are violating our patents!
Red Hat: No we’re not.
Patent Troll: Yes, you are! Prepare to defend yourself, and spend a zillion dollars in legal fees! Or, we could just settle.
Red Hat: That’s extortion, you know.
Patent Troll: Oh, you bet it is, fat boy. Now pay up like all the other suckers do.
Red Hat: Ooookay. Of course, you realize that your patents are garbage and shouldn’t ever have been granted in the first place. Especially since the attorney who filed the patent failed to disclose prior art (see page 14, please) and the USPTO is too overworked to find stuff like that. Look. We’ve got lots of prior art to show you. Wanna see?
Patent Troll: …
Red Hat: No? Okay, that’s fine. Listen, we’re reasonable, and there’s always a chance that the judge will be crazy enough to rule against us, even though you guys are so obviously “pwnt”, as the kids would say. So… you want to make a deal?
Patent Troll: Absolutely. VICTORY IS OURS!
Red Hat: Yep! We’ll gladly settle for a fraction of the cost of litigating you guys into the pavement. (Pardon me while I rummage through my change drawer.) And in return, all we ask is that you give away the right to sue anyone in the open source community for these patents, ever again.
Patent Troll: Sure! We’d never sue those little communist hippie runts anyway, because they don’t have any money.
Red Hat: Oh, no. No, no, no. We mean the Global Open Source Community. Everybody who writes code, sells code, uses code, distributes code. Everybody.
Patent Troll: Wait… I can’t sue IBM for this?
Red Hat: Nope.
Patent Troll: I can’t sue Novell for this? What about Sun? Can I sue them?
Red Hat: Nope, nope.
Patent Troll: Well, who can I sue?
Red Hat: You can sue all the proprietary software companies you want. But don’t bring that weak-ass game back to the open source world. And your little troll buddies better think twice, too.
Patent Troll: (pouting) But you guys are putting all the proprietary software companies out of business!
Red Hat: Life is not a pony farm.