Red Hat and Novell Nailed by First Linux Lawsuit
Published: October 16, 2007
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later, and honestly, the wonder is that it has not happened already. After years of setting up patent trusts and portfolios to bolster the open source community in general and the Linux operating system in particular, and several Linux and server vendors offering indemnification against lawsuits relating to Linux, two companies have launched the first lawsuit alleging that Linux violates their patents and copyrights.
Because Red Hat and Novell are the dominant commercial Linux suppliers, they were the ones slapped with the lawsuit brought by two patent trawlers. The plaintiffs in the case are IP Innovation, a Texas limited liability corporation that is based in Northbrook, Illinois, and Technology Licensing Corporation, a similar firm based in Carson City, Nevada. IP Innovation is a unit of Acacia Technologies Group, which is a division of Acacia Research, which controls over 81 different patent portfolios related to various technology areas. (You can read the lawsuit they have filed here.) The lawsuit was filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, which is a court that has been more friendly than others in the United States when it comes to patent litigation, which is why Acacia has a limited liability corporation located in East Texas even though it does business in Illinois.
IP Innovation and Technology Licensing apparently share the three patents and related copyrights that are at the heart of the suit, which oddly enough all have exactly the same name: "User Interface With Multiple Workspaces for Sharing Display System Objects," which are numbered 5,072,412 (from December 10, 1991), 5,533,183 (from July 2, 1996), and 5,394,521 (from February 28, 1995). The two plaintiffs allege that Red Hat's Enterprise Linux and Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop infringe on the three patents listed above, and say further that the two companies knowingly and actively are enticing others to infringe on the patents in question. IP Innovation and Technology Licensing also say that the alleged infringement continues to do economic damage to them, and therefore they are entitled to an immediate injunction from the court to restrict the sale and distribution of Red Hat's and Novell's Linuxes. The two companies are also asking that the court increase the damages awarded because of the alleged willful nature of Red Hat's and Novell's transgressions, and they ask further for a trial by jury to settle the matter.
The suit comes just as Red Hat's general counsel, Mark Webbink, is retiring from Red Hat to join the faculty at Duke University's law school. According to Duke University, Webbink will still help Red Hat as a special counsel for intellectual property, and this is relevant since Webbink was the architect of Red Hat's Patent Promise coverage for customers. Ironically, or perhaps fortunately, the date on the lawsuit (October 11) coincided with Novell's updating of its Technology Assurance Program, which provides Linux customers with protection from lawsuits alleging violations of copyright, patent, trademark, and trade secrets on the part of third partiers.
Neither Red Hat nor Novell have issued statements on the lawsuit yet, accept to acknowledge that the suit exists. It will be interesting to see if the two companies come to the conclusion that they should just license the disputed technology or fight it in the courts--the latter will take a lot more money, but it may dissuade future lawsuits and therefore be less costly in the long run. Since IP Innovation and Technology Licensing are not IT solution providers themselves, there is really no mechanism to do cross-licensing of patents to diffuse the situation. But it is possible that Novell, which holds considerable patents, could do some sort of hunt through its patents and find something in the IP Innovation and Technology Licensing patent portfolios that is in conflict with its own patents and sue them right back, at least evening the odds. Red Hat's patent portfolio is much smaller, since it has never had proprietary software on which to base patents.
It seems very unlikely that the two companies will follow the tactics of the SCO Group and not only sue IT players for infringing its patents and copyrights--in this case, IBM, Red Hat, and Novell are involved in complex litigation regarding SCO's rights over the Unix operating system--but also end users who make use of Linux. (SCO sued AIX and Linux customers as part of its lawsuits stemming from the original IBM case from March 2003.)
SCO Files for Bankruptcy Protection
Mad Dog 21/21: Patent Lather
Mad Dog 21/21: Patent Depending
Mandriva, Ubuntu Not Interested in Microsoft Deals
Linspire Hooks Up with Microsoft, Too
Xandros Inks Patent Protection, Interoperability Deal with Microsoft, Too
Microsoft-Novell Deal Has Escape Clause
Microsoft Claims Linux Violates 42 of Its Patents
The Microsoft-Novell Marriage of Two Minds Starts to Go Schizo
Microsoft and Novell in Landmark Partnership
Post this story to del.icio.us
Post this story to Digg
Post this story to Slashdot
Why File-based System Backup is your Best Bet
File-based, Full System Backups Create Advantages Over Image-based Backups
File-based backups used for system recovery have been around for years. And, until recently, file-based meant a long, painstaking, manual process capable of turning off even the most meticulous system administrator. Image-based backups, then, seemed to solve this problem by eliminating the need to deal with recreating partitions, filesystems, volume groups or other details related to the system's storage configuration. In an image-based restore, the storage configuration and data from the original system are restored as a whole to the new system. While this method produced fast recovery times, Linux administrators began to realize disk image backup was more of an alternative method with its own set of problems and limitations than an answer to the challenges of manual, file-based backup.
Limitations to Disk Image Backup
Since disk image backups make no distinction between files and instead backup the hard drive as a group of sectors, bare-metal recovery can be quick and easy by simply rewriting a duplicate image onto a new, identical disk drive. A fine solution, as long as the old system and new system are indeed identical in types, sizes, locations- basically the exact same hardware. Any differences in hardware, however, could render an image backup unusable.
Many system administrators know first-hand the frustration caused by the inflexibility of image-based backup. "What I hear time and time again from clients is that they switched from image-based backup to file-based because of the limitations they encountered when trying to restore a backup onto different hardware." said Manuel Altamirano, Storix Software Director of Sales and Marketing. "Administrators assume they will have access to identical hardware after a disaster or for migration when the time comes. Unfortunately, so often this is not the case. Companies are left with unplanned, excessive downtime."
Even more advanced disk image backup products, that offer alterations to disk partition tables, still fail to understand more advanced and increasingly common storage configuration tools such as the Logical Volume Manager (LVM) or Software RAID (meta-disks) that also must be altered to match new hard disk configuration before data can be restored. In these cases, users must manually alter and build the configuration, usually through command-line utilities and manual editing of configuration files. This also requires users to have knowledge on how to make a system bootable. Rebuilding a system using a disk image backup requires experienced Linux administrators and could take days, weeks or longer resulting in crippling downtime for an organization.
Advances in File-based Backup
File-based backup tools today can automate the process of recording every aspect of a system separately such as disk, filesystem and boot loader configuration while supporting all popular Linux storage configuration tools (i.e. LVM and Software RAID). This detailed backup information is used to greatly simplify the recovery of a failed system from scratch, even if hardware differences are detected on the new system. Furthermore, systems rebuilt from the ground up using file-based backups often times operate better than the original because there is virtually no fragmentation when the restore is completed.
Flexible recovery based on file-based backup
File-based backup products have the ability to reconfigure disks, partitions, filesystems and other storage solutions to fit onto new hardware. This ability to adapt a backup to fit new hardware or alter the system's storage configuration is called "Adaptable System Recovery" or ASR. Only backup solutions that gather details about the original system have enough information and flexibility to make the ASR process of altering configuration so simple even novice Linux administrators can quickly perform the recovery. Once new configuration is completed, data files from the backup are easily restored onto the new hardware. Finally, the system is made bootable based on the new hardware.
The revolutionary adaptability of ASR found in file-based backup tools creates further added value for system administrators because these products can now be used for far more than just reactive tasks such as disaster recovery.
Applications for ASR:
- Disaster Recovery- restore systems in minutes after a crash, even if hardware is not the same as the original
- Provisioning/cloning- a single backup "golden image" can be used to provision different systems, even if disks, adapters or other elements are not the same.
- Storage software migration- change configuration on the same system for improved performance and availability
- Hardware migration- install the same system onto newer or virtual systems
New system backup management features
Products using file-based system backup have not neglected to consider a system administrator's daily backup responsibilities. These products now incorporate functionality for backup management as well as some of the most advanced features seen in backup and recovery solutions for Linux and AIX. Some advanced features designed to simplify daily backup management for system administrators include:
- Graphical, Web and Command line interfaces
- Local and remote backups to disk or tape devices
- Sequential and random tape autoloader support
- Support for SAN storage solutions
- Tivoli Storage Manager integration
- Oracle database backup support
- Backup data encryption
- Multiple compression levels
File-based Backup Solutions Provide Most Bang for the Buck
Inexpensive products exist that combine both file-based backup management and ASR in one program. Look for a file-based system backup product with advanced features like those mentioned above. In turn, regular backup responsibilities such as automatically verifying backups and encrypting backup data will become much easier. Additionally, combined ASR capabilities greatly reduce downtime and required expertise for both reactive (even bare metal) and proactive recovery projects. File-based system backup and recovery solutions are an economical and more comprehensive option than their image-based counterparts.
About the Author
Anne Stobaugh is an independent contractor working with Storix Software to educate Linux and AIX users on the advantages of file-based backup and recovery solutions.
Editor: Timothy Prickett Morgan
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik, Kevin Vandever,
Shannon O'Donnell, Victor Rozek, Hesh Wiener, Alex Woodie
Publisher and Advertising Director: Jenny Thomas
Advertising Sales Representative: Kim Reed
IT Jungle Store Top Book Picks
The System i Pocket RPG & RPG IV Guide: List Price, $69.95
The iSeries Pocket Database Guide: List Price, $59.00
The iSeries Pocket Developers' Guide: List Price, $59.00
The iSeries Pocket SQL Guide: List Price, $59.00
The iSeries Pocket Query Guide: List Price, $49.00
The iSeries Pocket WebFacing Primer: List Price, $39.00
Migrating to WebSphere Express for iSeries: List Price, $49.00
iSeries Express Web Implementer's Guide: List Price, $59.00
Getting Started with WebSphere Development Studio for iSeries: List Price, $79.95
Getting Started With WebSphere Development Studio Client for iSeries: List Price, $89.00
Getting Started with WebSphere Express for iSeries: List Price, $49.00
WebFacing Application Design and Development Guide: List Price, $55.00
Can the AS/400 Survive IBM?: List Price, $49.00
The All-Everything Machine: List Price, $29.95
Chip Wars: List Price, $29.95
October 6, 2007: Volume 10, Number 40
September 29, 2007: Volume 9, Number 39
September 22, 2007: Volume 9, Number 38
September 15, 2007: Volume 9, Number 37
September 8, 2007: Volume 9, Number 36
September 1, 2007: Volume 9, Number 35