GNOME Slays Troll

Last year, Patent Progress reported on a troll targeting the GNOME Foundation, a major open source coordinating entity.  Despite Director Iancu’s public statement claiming that trolls are a myth, this troll was very real.  In fact, it was one of the Rothschild NPEs, one of a plethora of companies Leigh Rothschild has used in nearly 900 separate NPE patent lawsuits to date.  

Fortunately, however, GNOME was able to retain quality pro bono counsel.  And after 10 months, they achieved not just a walk-away settlement where GNOME owes nothing, but actually went further.  Neither the Rothschild subsidiary in this litigation, Rothschild Patent Imaging, nor any other Rothschild entity—or any entity purchasing a Rothschild-owned patent—can bring a lawsuit where the lawsuit alleges infringement by any software that is released under an open source license recognized by the Open Source Initiative.

That means that a wide range of software no longer has to worry about the possibility that they’ll have to spend months or years defending themselves from assertion of a Rothschild-owned patent.  That software includes everything from the HTTP servers and browsers that make the Internet work to the machine learning software powering many AI innovations to many tools used in the scientific computing that’s driving the forefront of scientific research.

It’s unfortunate that GNOME had to spend their time defending themselves from these allegations, but the result they achieved will benefit not just GNOME and its users, but open source software more broadly.  And that’s a pretty huge benefit, given the widespread use of open source software in modern society.

Joshua Landau

Joshua Landau is the Patent Counsel at the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), where he represents and advises the association regarding patent issues.  Mr. Landau joined CCIA from WilmerHale in 2017, where he represented clients in patent litigation, counseling, and prosecution, including trials in both district courts and before the PTAB.

Prior to his time at WilmerHale, Mr. Landau was a Legal Fellow on Senator Al Franken’s Judiciary staff, focusing on privacy and technology issues.  Mr. Landau received his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and his B.S.E.E. from the University of Michigan.  Before law school, he spent several years as an automotive engineer, during which time he co-invented technology leading to U.S. Patent No. 6,934,140.

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