June 30, 2006 4:46 PM PDT

Red Hat sued over JBoss technology

Red Hat has been hit by a patent lawsuit related to JBoss, just weeks after completing its purchase of the open-source software company.

In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Texas this week, FireStar Software claims that JBoss' Hibernate 3.0 infringes on its patent for linking relational databases with object-oriented software. Hibernate is an object-relational mapping tool for Java that's an open-license product and part of the JBoss Enterprise Middleware System (JEMS).

In a jury trial, Massachusetts-based FireStar is seeking treble damages and a halt to infringing activity, naming as defendants JBoss, Red Hat and DaVinci-Matterhorn, a wholly owned subsidiary of Red Hat.

"We're aware of the situation, and we're working through the proper legal channels to resolve it," a Red Hat representative said.

Linux distributor Red Hat announced its plan to acquire JBoss for $350 million in April and completed the deal June 5. According to the complaint, FireStar sent a cease-and-desist letter to JBoss on May 26, before the acquisition was completed, then sent another to Red Hat on June 7.

Analysts are questioning why FireStar went after Red Hat in particular. The patent (No. 6,101,502) relates to a "method for interfacing an object oriented software application with a relational database to facilitate access to the relational database," according to the patent application itself. This technology could apply to any number of other companies just as easily, analysts said.

"Why aren't they going against Oracle? They have much deeper pockets. Why not Sun (Microsystems)? Sun's Java Persistence API is not identical to Hibernate, but it's really close," said Anne Thomas Manes, a research director at the Burton Group.

Neither FireStar nor its attorneys handling the case were available for comment.

Stephen Walli, vice president of open-source development strategy at consultancy Optaros, said that even if other companies don't formally join in Red Hat's defense against FireStar, they may choose to offer legal assistance in the background.

"When you are dealing with open-source issues with Red Hat, IBM, Oracle and Sun, you almost don't get to pick your target," Walli said.

Both Red Hat and JBoss use the business model of charging for support and services of open-source software, rather than levy licensing fees for use of proprietary technology.

Though all the companies involved in the suit are registered Delaware corporations, FireStar launched its suit in Texas. Current patent law standards allow a patent infringement lawsuit to be filed in any state where the patent was believed to be infringed on. FireStar filed its complaint in the Eastern District Court of Texas, a Federal District Court known for its expeditious processing of patent infringement cases.

Because the complaint requests a jury trial, Red Hat faces a drawn-out legal battle and a possible injunction, both of which could cost it a lot of money.

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JBoss, Red Hat Inc., open-source software company, RDBMS, open-source software

17 comments

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Bogus Patent.
Just on the surface, the patent awarded is pretty bogus.

A company that on its own website states that it was founded in 2001 makes a claim on OO to DB technology?

Can you say prior art?

NeXT (Objective C to RDBMS) technology existed in early 90's.

Informix/IBM etc ... C++ to RDBMS technologies existed.

They are going to have to show how their patent is unqiue from the prior art, not just translation to a different OO langue, aka Java.

IMHO, its yet another reason why you really can't have effective Software patents.
Posted by dargon19888 (412 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I Agree
It seems that for the most part of it, software patents are being used to extort money from the big guys. Hmp!
Posted by Mendz (519 comments )
Link Flag
Bogus Patent.
Just on the surface, the patent awarded is pretty bogus.

A company that on its own website states that it was founded in 2001 makes a claim on OO to DB technology?

Can you say prior art?

NeXT (Objective C to RDBMS) technology existed in early 90's.

Informix/IBM etc ... C++ to RDBMS technologies existed.

They are going to have to show how their patent is unqiue from the prior art, not just translation to a different OO langue, aka Java.

IMHO, its yet another reason why you really can't have effective Software patents.
Posted by dargon19888 (412 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I Agree
It seems that for the most part of it, software patents are being used to extort money from the big guys. Hmp!
Posted by Mendz (519 comments )
Link Flag
suspicious circumstances
First, the timing. the cease and desist order was sent so late that my question is Who and under what circumstances was the C&D order sent... (i.e. was it sent to the one VP who was on vacation, thereby keeping RedHat from being notified via full disclosure rules, before the sale?)

second is their choice of courts, though the article claims it can be filed in any court in which a violation is likely to have occurred, (thus any court that has redHat, and JBoss specifically, customers thus virtually anywhere) in that case it is customary to file in the court of your own incorporation or, if different, the court of your main base of operations. the home court of your opponent is also sometimes done as a gesture to say "we will win even with them having 'home court' advantage". in this case, I believe all three of these primary courts are one and the same
(the home base of redhat, either Tennessee or Georgia, might be a different court but Delaware and Maryland are certainly the same court)

this abnormality has a likely explanation mentioned in the story, the Texas based court has a history of expediting patent cases (i.e. the greedy are pulling out all stops)

but the most bizarre thing about this is the prior art. you would thing by the issuing of that patent that prior to 2001 no program ever tried to give and get information to/from a database. the patent does mention Object Oriented... a buzzword for a type of programming, so I wonder how C++ programs accessed databases before 2001? and certainly Visual C++ must be able to access databases... so why didn't they sue Microsoft? oh, that's right, Visual C++ has been around for a dog's age....

It is obvious to me that these ploys are an attempt to force a shallowpockets company to capitulate early, (can you say "out of court settlement" and "undeserved win") to increase their war chest, give a precident setting win and bulldoze a settlement (remember the 87 year old grandmother RIAA sued and got $17.000 because she she couldn't afford the attorney fees)

pray that the court system will see through the ploy and make them prove it before requiring injunction and/or a monitary layout by RedHat to continue operations
Posted by qazwiz (208 comments )
Reply Link Flag
suspicious circumstances
First, the timing. the cease and desist order was sent so late that my question is Who and under what circumstances was the C&D order sent... (i.e. was it sent to the one VP who was on vacation, thereby keeping RedHat from being notified via full disclosure rules, before the sale?)

second is their choice of courts, though the article claims it can be filed in any court in which a violation is likely to have occurred, (thus any court that has redHat, and JBoss specifically, customers thus virtually anywhere) in that case it is customary to file in the court of your own incorporation or, if different, the court of your main base of operations. the home court of your opponent is also sometimes done as a gesture to say "we will win even with them having 'home court' advantage". in this case, I believe all three of these primary courts are one and the same
(the home base of redhat, either Tennessee or Georgia, might be a different court but Delaware and Maryland are certainly the same court)

this abnormality has a likely explanation mentioned in the story, the Texas based court has a history of expediting patent cases (i.e. the greedy are pulling out all stops)

but the most bizarre thing about this is the prior art. you would thing by the issuing of that patent that prior to 2001 no program ever tried to give and get information to/from a database. the patent does mention Object Oriented... a buzzword for a type of programming, so I wonder how C++ programs accessed databases before 2001? and certainly Visual C++ must be able to access databases... so why didn't they sue Microsoft? oh, that's right, Visual C++ has been around for a dog's age....

It is obvious to me that these ploys are an attempt to force a shallowpockets company to capitulate early, (can you say "out of court settlement" and "undeserved win") to increase their war chest, give a precident setting win and bulldoze a settlement (remember the 87 year old grandmother RIAA sued and got $17.000 because she she couldn't afford the attorney fees)

pray that the court system will see through the ploy and make them prove it before requiring injunction and/or a monitary layout by RedHat to continue operations
Posted by qazwiz (208 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'm afraid to program anymore.. is someone going to sue me?
What the hell!?

I should just take the rest of the day off I guess.

I don't want to infringe on any patents.
Posted by baswwe (299 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I have a patent on the use of "afraid" in forum post titles.
Your subpoena is on the way.
Posted by news_reader (32 comments )
Link Flag
I'm afraid to program anymore.. is someone going to sue me?
What the hell!?

I should just take the rest of the day off I guess.

I don't want to infringe on any patents.
Posted by baswwe (299 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I have a patent on the use of "afraid" in forum post titles.
Your subpoena is on the way.
Posted by news_reader (32 comments )
Link Flag
This is bad for OpenSource contributors...
Looking at the SCO vs IBM and now this patent suit, this bodes ill for Open Source ventures. Especially ones like Apache.

Apache contributors and their companies agree to indemnify Apache in the chance that their contributed code could launch a lawsuit.

Even if the code is proven to have been original and that the creators had no prior knowledge... the cost of defense can be expensive.

Also if the patent could be reasonably invalidated by a prior art example, then you may win, but you still have to pay for the legal costs for the defense.

So even if you win, you lose.

What the USPO needs to do is to hire a team to review key patents and determine and show that they are invalid. In addion, they should revoke any and all patents of "Business Processes" since it can be shown that they are invalid to start with.
Posted by dargon19888 (412 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is bad for OpenSource contributors...
Looking at the SCO vs IBM and now this patent suit, this bodes ill for Open Source ventures. Especially ones like Apache.

Apache contributors and their companies agree to indemnify Apache in the chance that their contributed code could launch a lawsuit.

Even if the code is proven to have been original and that the creators had no prior knowledge... the cost of defense can be expensive.

Also if the patent could be reasonably invalidated by a prior art example, then you may win, but you still have to pay for the legal costs for the defense.

So even if you win, you lose.

What the USPO needs to do is to hire a team to review key patents and determine and show that they are invalid. In addion, they should revoke any and all patents of "Business Processes" since it can be shown that they are invalid to start with.
Posted by dargon19888 (412 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Patent trolls again (nt)
Patent trolls again
Posted by dnheller (20 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Patent trolls again (nt)
Patent trolls again
Posted by dnheller (20 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Who are these people?
Never heard of 'em. Have they produced a REAL PRODUCT with
their "patent" or are they just using it to go after other
companies?

Charles R. Whealton
Chuck Whealton @ pleasedontspam.com
Posted by chuck_whealton (521 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Who are these people?
Never heard of 'em. Have they produced a REAL PRODUCT with
their "patent" or are they just using it to go after other
companies?

Charles R. Whealton
Chuck Whealton @ pleasedontspam.com
Posted by chuck_whealton (521 comments )
Reply Link Flag
All I have to ask is what in the heck is wrong with East Texas?

Seems like many of these suits originate from there. Also - the vultures filing these suits should be shunned, mocked, and discredited. A campaign should be started aimed at the company's shareholders to hopefully show what a bunch of dinks they've been supporting. (Not that it would work. Shareholders care only about money.)

What really needs to happen is a serious overhaul of patent law in this country.
Posted by Spartanicus (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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