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Rackspace and Red Hat Celebrate Victory over Troll

Red Hat rode to its customer’s rescue, providing Rackspace’s defense as part of its Open Source Assurance program

Rackspace and Red Hat were patting each other on the back Thursday morning after they got a patent suit against Linux thrown out on its ear by the usually plaintiff-friendly federal court in the Eastern District of Texas.

Uniloc USA, a so-called non-practicing entity (NPE) or patent troll, filed suit against Rackspace in the Texas court last year alleging that the processing of floating point number by the Linux operating system violates one of its patents (US No. 5,892,697).

Red Hat rode to its customer's rescue, providing Rackspace's defense as part of its Open Source Assurance program.

The court invalidated the patent claims alleged to cover Linux and dismissed the case after Rackspace and Red Hat moved for dismissal on a 12(b)(6) motion before even filing a rebuttal.

In dismissing the case, Chief Judge Leonard Davis found that Uniloc's claim was unpatentable under Supreme Court case law prohibiting the patenting of mathematical algorithms.

The companies said in a joint press release that "this is the first reported instance in which the Eastern District of Texas has granted an early motion to dismiss finding a patent invalid because it claimed unpatentable subject matter."

In his ruling, Judge Davis wrote that the asserted claim "is a mathematical formula that is unpatentable under Section 101."

The press release also noted that Uniloc USA is a frequent litigator, having brought patent suits against many high-tech companies including Adobe, Microsoft, Sony and Symantec.

Red Hat's assistant general counsel for IP Rob Tiller said in a statement that "NPE patent lawsuits are a chronic and serious problem for the technology industry. Such lawsuits, which are frequently based on patents that should never have been granted, typically cost millions of dollars to defend. These suits are a plague on innovation, economic growth and job creation. Courts can help address this problem by determining the validity of patents early and with appropriate care. In this case, Judge Davis did just that, and set a great example for future cases."

Rackspace general counsel Alan Schoenbaum added that "The early dismissal of this case delivers a clear message that patent assertion entities can't expect quick settlements on weak claims, a tactic many patent assertion entities use to monetize questionable patents. We salute Red Hat for its outstanding defense and for standing firm with its customers in defeating this patent troll. We hope that many more of these spurious software patent lawsuits will be dismissed on similar grounds."

Michael Cunningham, Red Hat general counsel, Red Hat, is also hopeful that Chief Judge Davis' dismissal "will encourage earlier decisions by other courts on invalid software patents, reducing vexatious litigation by non-producing entities and their corrosive effect on innovation."

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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