Google loses Linux patent lawsuit, pointing up vulnerability for Android


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Google has lost a high-stakes lawsuit in Texas that is raising sharp concern that the Internet giant could face more such claims.

A federal jury last week awarded Linux patent-holder Bedrock Computer Technologies $5 million in the closely watched patent infringement case. It may be the first such award over the Linux kernel that is at the core of the open-source operating system.


The lawsuit centered on Google’s use of Linux, which runs its servers and is included in its popular Android mobile software.

The award was small -- Bedrock had sought more than $180 million -- but the implications could be significant, spurring a flood of claims against other Linux users and spelling trouble for the open-source movement, according to intellectual property activist Florian Mueller.

Bedrock is also suing Amazon, MySpace, PayPal, Yahoo and others. Red Hat, one of the largest distributors of Linux, is suing Bedrock, trying to invalidate its patent.

In a statement, Google said: ‘Google will continue to defend against attacks like this one on the open source community. The recent explosion in patent litigation is turning the world’s information highway into a toll road, forcing companies to spend millions and millions of dollars defending old, questionable patent claims.’

The case highlights a potential vulnerability for Android, which is growing quickly and threatening competitors in the booming smartphone market. Google has faced a rash of suits targeting Android.

‘This doesn’t bode well for the 41 Android-related patent infringement suits that are going on at this stage,’ Mueller said.

Last week, Apple sued Samsung Electronics, alleging it copied the design of the iPad and iPhone. Samsung’s Galaxy products use Android software. Samsung countersued Apple. See more on the dispute between Apple and Samsung here.

Google has often complained about what it calls frivolous patent lawsuits that stifle innovation. It also has advocated for patent litigation reform.


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-- Jessica Guynn