Software vendors of the world, take note: Red Hat has just demonstrated a truly open-source friendly way to tackle patent lawsuits. In settling a patent lawsuit with DataTern and Amphion Innovations PLC, Red Hat protected its short-term interests in the JBoss software. But it also went much further.
Unlike other patent deals (Read: Every single one that Microsoft has signed), which try to create a walled garden of protection for the signing parties, Red Hat opted to go much broader:
"Typically when a company settles a patent lawsuit, it focuses on getting safety for itself," said Rob Tiller, Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, IP [Red Hat]. "But that was not enough for us, we wanted broad provisions that covered our customers, who place trust in us, and the open source community, whose considerable efforts benefit our business."
In case you missed that, Red Hat's policy protects upstream and downstream users of its software, regardless of whether they signed a patent agreement with Red Hat. Red Hat competitors like Novell benefit. Red Hat customers benefit. The open-source community at large benefits.
This is how to do a patent agreement. It's how an open-source friendly company works with patents. Consider it a primer for the rest of us.
No, Red Hat isn't completely out of the woods on patent lawsuits. It is still fighting IP Innovation's suit, but it at least has shown us how it intends to fight the patent threat to open source (and all software).