back to article Google Linux servers hit with $5m patent infringement verdict

A jury has found that in using Linux on its back-end servers, Google has infringed a patent held by a small Texas-based company and must pay $5m in damages. In 2006, Bedrock Computer Technologies sued Google and several other outfits – including Yahoo!,, PayPal, and AOL – claiming they infringed on a patent filed in …


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  1. g e

    Prior art

    DB2 used linked lists for db storage if I remember rightly. Must have had methods to count and remove records and indexes into the list, too.

    I was using DB2 years before 1997.

    If we're lucky the trolls' twisted corpses will be dug up in a few years next time the Information Super Highway is resurfaced. Why proof that you applied your patent to an invention or product isn't required I'll never know. Oh, actually I do. It's cos it's 'merrika

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge


      I'm pretty sure we have done that in programming 101 in the freshman year of 89. For frack's sake.

      1. Lewis Mettler

        no doubt

        It is just a routine, an algorithm, a way of arranging and accessing data.

        No doubt this patent is also an example of a patent for which the original application intentionally omitted prior art.

        It is known that software patents routinely omit prior art in the application. And that effort is deliberate.

        And, of course, Linux has nothing to do with it other than being one example of programming that happens to use the technology.

        Maybe with some luck this case can be appealed to the US Supreme Court and convince just about everyone how stupid it is to patent software.

    2. Ilgaz

      so, IBM?

      I wonder if IBM will join the party as the tiny company seems to have invented (!) their invention.

      Linux is a huge deal for IBM and when IBM started Linux effort, people partied exactly because of that.

      They were running virtual machines back in 1970s, that kind of company.

      What was the term? Wake up Nazgul? Please do :)

    3. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

      Read the patent....

      Look at who owns the patent and the patents that this was based on....

      Bell Labs, IBM...

      I don't like it, but the guy who owns the patent isn't a troll...

      Good luck trying to invalidate the patent.

      1. Peter Simpson 1

        Who owns the patent?

        Bedrock appears to have bought it from the inventor, a CS professor in New York. Bedrock is a troll -- they have no product, no research and no customers. Their business is buying patents and using them as a basis for lawsuits.

    4. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

      Maybe, maybe not...

      DB2 isn't an OS.

      Unless you can see the patent in its entirety, it is difficult to decide.

      Again the burden is to disprove the patent outside of the lawsuit which can be expensive an if you're not successful you just wasted a lot of good money and also set up a precedence which will make it harder to fight the patent in a different lawsuit.

      Without passing judgment on this specific case, once again the USPTO is flawed when it gave out software patents along with business process patents.

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

        g e is right

        This sounds like DB2's b-tree balancing. Does this patent take ownership of b-trees andlinked list data structures?

        This whole copyright thing has gone to hell on a horse, I bought a section of bedding plants last week, on the back of the tag "Protected by plant breeders rights. Propagation prohibited without a license" and a (c)HORTIPAK LTD

        FFS, propagation of flowering plants without a license.........

  2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Bedrock? Where's Fred

    Flintstone yelling 'Wlima'?

    Ok, I'm outa here...

  3. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Bedrock Computer Technologies?

    Waitaminnit... isn't that the Fred Flintstone bunch?

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      @Gene Cash

      Oh dear, that's a bit of a showstopper.

      Finding prior art to invalidate the patent from before the Stone Age could prove tricky........

  4. Gene Cash Silver badge
    Gates Halo

    Like Bill Gates said...

    If software patents had been around back then, he would have been able to start Microsoft.

    I leave it up to the jury to decide if that's a good or bad thing...

    1. Ilgaz

      If it wasn't big blue

      Think of IBM, a small country sized company. In 80s, they were 10x more influential especially in government. I heard at one stage, USA govt. decided to sue them and they figured IBM has more lawyers than the government itself.

      So, MS bought the CP/M copy to sell it to big blue. I bet if it wasn't IBM, a smaller company, they wouldn't start the company and BillG's rich family would have to pay some huge money.

      1. westlake

        Re: If it wasn't big blue?

        >>So, MS bought the CP/M copy to sell it to big blue. I bet if it wasn't IBM, a smaller company, they wouldn't start the company and BillG's rich family would have to pay some huge money.<<

        Gates was selling BASIC for the microcomputer to the Fortune 500 in 1975.

        MBASIC would go on to become the first million-dollar software seller for the micro.

        In 1980 Microsoft had a full suite of programming languages, a UNIX port for the micro in development, the Z-80 Softcard for the Apple II - and was beginning to move into both the consumer and business markets for applications.

        IBM came to Microsoft for both programming languages and OS for their new micro and it was Gates who pointed them towards Digital Research.

        When DR fumbled the ball, Gates was there to pick it up.

        Promising to deliver a serviceable 16 bit CP/M clone in time for the scheduled launch of the IBM PC --- at the low, low, price of $50 a unit, retail list.

        In exchange for a non-exclusive license.

  5. Keith 20
    Paris Hilton


    So where is the Linux angle ? Did I miss something ?

    Pic 'cus im feeling blonde....

    1. Spanners Silver badge

      Linux Angle?

      Every Server Operating in existence does something like this. Linux, Windows, BSD, UNIX and many more. Probably a lot of the desktop OS do as well. It sounds like stuff I was using in the late 80s.

      Someone should buy that company and shut it down...

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        BUY IT????

        I would go to prison if I walked around the neighborhood and demanded that people pay up or else because they happen to have been noticed by me.

        Why is this different?

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. hayseed
    Thumb Down


    Hashing and collision resolution is as old as the digital stone age. How could Google have possibly lost this one?

    1. Tom 35 Silver badge


      The land where no patent is too crap to win.

    2. Ray Simard


      Because the plaintiff met the requirements for a favorable decision, specifically: filing in the Eastern District of Texas.

  7. NoneSuch
    Black Helicopters


    "forcing companies to spend millions and millions of dollars defending old, questionable patent claims"

    Sorry Google, but if it was an "old" or "questionable" patent, the judge would not have found you guilty of infringing it.

    Pay the fine, buy the patent off the guy and shelve it for when you want to go after M$ and Apple. You can afford it.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Read again - it's a "jury"

      A jury in which probably no-one ever saw a hashing algorithm or garbage collection algorithm in a dusty textbook from the 80's.

      A jury which probably thinks that patents make sense and are granted by people with a brain.

      Could be you would fit in.

      1. Tom 13

        No probably about it.

        If you knew anything at all about programming, the lawyers could exclude you from the jury because you are liable to have pre-determined opinions about the case law and therefore favor one of the parties over the other.

    2. Steven Knox Silver badge

      NoneSuch Troll

      'Sorry Google, but if it was an "old" or "questionable" patent, the judge would not have found you guilty of infringing it.'

      Sorry, NoneSuch, but you're either a troll or completely ignorant of how the patent system works in Texas.

      1. Tom 13

        Not how the patent system works in the Eastern District of Texas,

        how the plaintiff laws work in the Eastern District of Texas.

        The patent system works the same for all 50 of the States, what differs is the court systems in which the cases are heard.

      2. NoneSuch

        @ Steven Knox... Nope. Not a Troll.

        Simple fact is Google, Apple, M$ et al. have spent millions patenting finger swipes over capacitive surfaces, shapes of iGadgets and even page turning on e-readers. Why? Because the system lets them! They are trying to crate up ideas and concepts where the patent system was designed to protect inventions like the telephone, automatic transmissions or microwave ovens.

        So when someone sues Google for such a patent violation I just laugh quietly to myself as this is them being hoisted on their own petard. The corporations created this beast and if it turns and bites them on occasion then all the better motivation to fix the bloody system.

        The patent system is broken everywhere Mr. Knox; not just Texas. Have a nice day.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      re: the judge would not have found you guilty

      Your naivety might be charming if it didn't make you look so stupid.

    4. Charlie Clark Silver badge


      You are George Bush Jr. and I claim my £5!!!

      Case aside it was a jury and not a judge wot found 'em guilty. Texas is popular for software patent trials because of the high density of software engineers living there.

      1. John Angelico

        the high density of software engineers living there

        ...presumably the density in not in their crania, or they would not have arrived at this patently absurd conclusion...

        The one with Logic 101 in the pocket

    5. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Ummm...

      Your Honor? The plaintiff has no objection to this juror.......

  8. tas

    Software patents are crazy

    Guess the Americans are learning this, like so much else, the hard way.

    "The jury found that Google did not provide by a "preponderance of evidence" that these clams were invalid." - wtf? Does this seem ridiculous to anyone else: you have to prove you *didn't* infringe on a patent?

    - is this specific to the Texan legal jurisdiction?

    - cannot this be used as a means to discover how your competitor is doing a task just by claiming it must infringe on your patent?

    - given the burden of proof, what is there to stop creating frivolous lawsuits, regardless of the size of your company, just to harass your competitors?

    No wonder US lawyers are the most competitive and best paid in the world. It must seem to them the entire world is their oyster ...

  9. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


    The method is used in the Linux kernel

    Interestingly they have decided to go after a Linux user - with lots of money = Google, rather than the person who wrote the infringing code.

    1. Ilgaz

      Testing the waters?

      Now they won against Google (not really), they may do some SCO action and even mess with BSD guys (that includes Apple).

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So they've accepted a patent on the idea of a linked list with garbage collection, that's pretty broad, I suspct Nick Wirth is horrified

    1. Robert E A Harvey


      I wonder if he could give evidence?

      I bet he wishes he'd patented everything in his book!

      1. henrydddd


        Me wonders if they copy righted every thing that Knuth wrote.

        1. DZ-Jay

          Re: hummmm

          If it's printed in a book, it's copyrighted.


  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    patents misery

    where is the patent on creating a broad patent so as to be applied to many targets

  12. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    oh noes

    I run Linux and use a database, which means I'm going to be sued into the ground by this patent troll

    But luckily for me I live in a country where the patent system is'nt as insane as the US one........... yet!

  13. Anonymous Coward

    When did this get introduced into the Kernel?

    It could have been a parallel discovery/implementation or maybe Bedrock stole the idea from the kernel and patented it.

  14. K. Adams

    So what we have is a patent on...

    ... using a hash (globally unique identifier, or GUID) as a search key to identify a specific linked list, which contains a set of records, in which said records contain time-stamp/expiry information, and a collision detection algorithm thrown-in to make sure conflicting updates are not made on the linked list.

    This is utter bollocks.

    How to manage linked lists is part of Programming 101 (Structured Programming), using a unique key to identify a set of structured data is part of Programming 201 (Relational Database Management and Design), and collision detection and avoidance of simultaneous updates on a specific chunk of data is part of Programming 301 (Parallel/Threaded Programming).

    Just about every operating system and relational database management system makes congruent use of all three methods; here are just a few that come quickly to mind:

    -- Microsoft Windows: Active Directory object record updates in combination with AD replication conflict resolution...

    -- Just about any clustered SQL server solution provided by Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, Sybase, Pervasive, etc....

    -- DNS record updates and scavenging...

    -- 4ESS/5ESS telephone switching equipment state tables...

    I am sure there are many more.

    **Note: I am not against patents per se, as long as couple conditions are met:

    -- Patent holders should be required to produce an actual product based upon their patents within X years of initial award (4 to 7 years to allow for commercial development seems fair; maybe a bit longer in the case of medicines that are stuck in double-blind-study-limbo by government drug safety authorities), otherwise the patent enters the public domain. ("Put up or shut up.")

    -- Patents on software which provides general methods of manipulating data in various ways should be invalidated; after all, that's what general-purpose computers (and the apps that run on them) are designed to do. ("How I arrange my LEGOs is my business.")

  15. ratfox Silver badge

    Sometimes I wish I was so shameless

    Who needs to be productive and actually invent things, when you can just patent known techniques, wait ten years, and sue in hope that the company will pay?

    A sum of $5 millions is calculated so that Google might just pay to get rid of the problem and hope they will go away bother somebody else.

  16. William Boyle
    Thumb Down

    Ultimate bogosity

    Prior art anyone? I was doing this (hash + linked list w/ node expiration) back in the 1980's. This is not new, novel, or not obvious. What a bogus bunch of sh!t.

  17. Wile E. Veteran
    Big Brother

    Got y'all beat

    I was using linked lists with hash tables and garbage collection to store plant-floor test data on an emissions-related part that had to be available to the EPA back in thee 1970's and it was old stuff then.

    Time for a real revolution.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Great post, wrong icon

      We beardies need something to reflect out inner cool.

  18. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Cough! Splutter!

    East Texas is just down the road from me and let me tell you, these are some of the most inbred sons of britches (sic) in the whole of the USA.

    If this patent will fly then I'm going to patent the art of taking a shite and take their collective inbred asses to the cleaners.

    Paris - because when she drove through East Texas the average IQ of the state doubled.

    1. Graham O'Brien

      Paris - because when she drove through East Texas the average IQ of the state doubled.


  19. E 2

    Holding head in hands

    The bullet points listing the infringements describe a linked list and the operations one might want to perform on it as far as I can tell. I learned linked lists in 1991 in a Pascal programming class at Uni, they were hardly new then. Where is the new art in the patent?

    Now if the patent holder had a way to search a linked list without using a key value, or to delete entries without using a key value then the patent holder would have something!

  20. alain williams Silver badge

    What were the arguments ?

    Do we know what the arguments were that swung the jury ? There is very little real substance to this story other than the verdict.

    Were they technical or was it along the lines that google can afford it ?


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