Open Invention Network comes to GNOME's aid in patent troll fight

GNOME, the popular Linux desktop, is under attack by Rothschild Patent Imaging, a patent troll. But the non-profit GNOME has friends in this fight. The Open Invention Network is helping defend GNOME.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Rothschild Patent Imaging (RPI) is suing the GNOME Foundation for violating its "wireless image distribution system and method patent" (US Patent No. 9,936,086)." It's just another day at the office for Rothschild, a Non-Practicing Entity (aka a patent troll), which has filed 714 lawsuits over the past six years. But for the non-profit GNOME Foundation, this lawsuit is a real threat. Fortunately, GNOME has friends. One of them, the Open Invention Network (OIN), a pro-Linux patent non-aggression consortium, is coming to GNOME's defense.

In a surprise announcement at Open Source Summit Europe in Lyon, France, Keith Bergelt, OIN's CEO, announced that OIN has sicced its legal team in finding prior art that can be used to show that RPI's patent should be ruled invalid. 

Bergelt said in his keynote: 

"Rothschild is a bad company. This is an entity that's antithetical to the goals of innovation. It will sue foundations. It will sue not for profits. iI will sue individuals. It will sue corporations. Their playbook is to establish a pattern of wins through relatively modest settlements," which can get other businesses to pay up without a fight.

GNOME is fighting.

GNOME Foundation executive director Neil McGovern has hired Shearman & Sterling, a top global business law firm to defend GNOME from Rothschild. RPI had claimed GNOME's Shotwell photo program infringed upon its patent for wirelessly importing and organizing pictures.

In response to GNOME, Sherman & Sterling, which Bergelt called "a top-flight law firm," has filed three legal defenses:  A motion to dismiss the case outright, an answer to the claim, and a counterclaim.

The GNOME Foundation doesn't just want Rothchild to back off. It wants to ensure that RPI's patent becomes invalidated, so the lawsuit "isn't just dropped when [RPI] realizes we're going to fight this."

Armed with the prior art OIN has uncovered, Bergelt expects "good results as they stay the course and proceed with the legal process." I predicted, when news of the suit broke, that Rothchild was asking for trouble. It's found it. 

Looking ahead, Bergelt said OIN will start targeting patent trolls more:

"In the beginning we focused on practicing entity operating companies whose behaviors were antagonistic to Linux. There are fewer and fewer of those companies as open source becomes more relevant to all companies. And, so now we are pivoting to be able to focus on non-practicing entity risk, as well as some residual operating company risk."

Bergelt also said the OIN will soon announce a new partnership with "two very significant operating companies, which will attack poor-quality patents and invalidate them." 

Stay tuned. There will be more trouble for patent trolls coming soon.

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