$5m Google fine over Linux patent suit as clouds gather around Android momentum

Chris Davies - Apr 22, 2011
$5m Google fine over Linux patent suit as clouds gather around Android momentum

Google has become the first victim of a Linux patent infringement case, fined $5m by a Texas court and facing potential legal repercussions that could significantly impact Android development. The suit, filed by Bedrock Computer Technologies, alleged Google – as well as various other big-name companies, including Amazon, Softlayer, PayPal, AOL and Yahoo! – had infringed a patent covering “methods and apparatus for information storage and retrieval using a hashing technique with external chaining and on-the-fly removal of expired data.”

Bedrock claimed the Linux kernel at the heart of Google’s server farms infringed on their IP, and that the search giant should pay up accordingly. The courts agreed with Bedrock, and imposed the $5m fine. While the amount itself is small change for Google, the longer-term implications could be a significantly greater headache.

Patent activist Florian Mueller suggests that Google may have to exert considerable effort picking through the Android OS to make sure the same kernel issue isn’t present there. Without that reassurance, OEMs using Android – such as HTC, Motorola and Sony Ericsson – could find themselves facing demands for licensing fees as patent holders come out of the woodwork.

“Google might have to modify the Linux kernel it distributes with Android in order to remove the infringing code” Florian claims, “because otherwise there’s always the risk of contributory infringement should any app make use of that portion of the Linux kernel.”

[via Android Community]

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