April 23, 2011 - A federal jury in Texas found that Google infringes a Linux-related patent and awarded $5 million to Bedrock Computer Technologies, which holds a patent on a portion of the Linux kernel.
The patent-in-suit is U.S. Patent No. 5,893,120 on "methods and apparatus for information storage and retrieval using a hashing technique with external chaining and on-the-fly removal of expired data". Besides Google, Bedrock also sued Softlayer Technologies, CitiWare Technology Solutions, Yahoo!, MySpace, Amazon.com, PayPal, Match.com, AOL and the CME Group - but Google was the first to go to trial.
Though the $5 million award is relatively small for a patent infringement damages award, and an amount that Google will have no difficulty paying, the outcome of this lawsuit will likely have ramifications for other Linux users and distributors - as well as any existing Android applications that infringe the Bedrock patent's claims.
Red Hat, one of the largest Linux distributors, is suing Bedrock in an attempt to invalidate its patent. Meanwhile, a group founded in 2005 to protect the Linux community from such lawsuits - the Open Invention Network - has built a portfolio of over 2,000 patents and patent licenses, and its members include such big names as Facebook, HP, Fujitsu, Rackspace and many more.