A Texas jury recently ruled that Google infringed on an information storage and retrieval patent. The court verdict documents, filed last Friday, specify a sum of $5 million in damages are to be awarded to Bedrock Computer Technologies, LLC. The court has yet to decide on the injunction for which Bedrock had also asked.
Google is not the only company targeted by this patent infringement. Amazon, MySpace, Yahoo, AOL Red Hat, and many other companies large and small are also named by Bedrock as offenders of potential infringement.
If the injunction is upheld, many Internet services will have to change the way they do business. The reason being is that the patent infringement involves several versions of Linux all the back to kernel version 2.4.22 (circa 2003) through many of the recent 2.6 kernels.
The patent, filed in 1997, is for “methods and apparatus for information storage and retrieval using a hashing technique with external chaining and on-the-fly removal of expired data.” The larger picture here is how this will impact future development of Web 2.0 services that rely on on-the-fly removal of data stored using these Linux hashing techniques.
While there are Internet-wide concerns with this decision, Google has even more reason to worry. This decision, if not successfully appealed, not only affects search; it affects their Android operating system, too. Florian Mueller suggests that there are likely “hundreds of thousands” of Android apps that are likely to somehow rely on the infringed patent claims.
While Google is the first suit to have been brought to trial, Red Hat unsuccessfully attempted to have their suits dismissed due to patent invalidity. It will be interesting to see which companies will ultimately settle because of this verdict. However the claims and the recent decision against Google don’t bode well for the future of open source development.