A judgement by a Texas jury against Google could have major implications for the search giant and the open source world said experts. The internet titan was found guilty of infringing a patent related to the Linux kernel and fined $5m (£3.2m). The software is used by Google for its server platforms and could also extend to its Android mobile platform.
The suit was initially filed in 2009 with regards to the patent 5,893,120 - "Methods and apparatus for information storage and retrieval using a hashing technique with external chaining and on-the-fly removal of expired data" which was originally filed 1997 and subsequently granted in 1999.
Bedrock claimed that the technique outlined above is used in Linux and as such has sued Google, Yahoo, MySpace, PayPal, Amazon, Match.com, AOL, CME Group, Softlayer and Citiware for patent infringement.
Bedrock's specific claim is that versions of Linux post version 2.4.22 or after, or version 2.6.25 or later, contain code which infringe the first two claims of the patent:
1. An information storage and retrieval system, the system comprising:
a linked list to store and provide access to records stored in a memory of the system, at least some of the records automatically expiring,
a record search means utilizing a search key to access the linked list,
the record search means including a means for identifying and removing at least some of the expired ones of the records from the linked list when the linked list is accessed, and
means, utilizing the record search means, for accessing the linked list and, at the same time, removing at least some of the expired ones of the records in the linked list.
2. The information storage and retrieval system according to claim 1 further including means for dynamically determining maximum number for the record search means to remove in the accessed linked list of records.
The case dockets make reference to a file by the name of route.c being entered into evidence by Bedrock. The patent itself is not about the simple implementation of a chained linked list but the idea of removing expired records while traversing the list when searching for records and setting a limit on the number of records being removed to avoid searches spending all their time deleting expired records.
On 11 April, a jury trial for Bedrock vs. Google began. Google's defence was that it did not infringe on the above two claims of the patent and in fact the patent claim itself was invalid.
On 15 April the trial ended with a jury verdict that Google had in fact infringed a patent and set compensation in favour of Bedrock at $5 million.
Google is expected to appeal after issuing a statement saying "it will continue to defend against attacks like this one on the open source community".