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Plaintiff: Open Source Not on Trial in Linux Suit

The nation's first Linux patent suit currently facing Red Hat and Novell isn't about open source at all. Or so the plaintiff says.

IP Innovation last week filed the patent lawsuit against Linux in Texas, alleging that both Red Hat and Novell infringe on U.S. Patent No. 5,072,412, "User Interface with Multiple Workspaces for Sharing Display System Objects."

Neither IP Innovation nor its parent company Acacia Research responded to request for comment at the time the patent suit first came to light. But today, in a statement sent to InternetNews.com, Acacia Chairman and CEO Paul Ryan defended the firm's actions and argued that there is no conspiracy against open source coming from his firm.

"IP Innovation is not attempting to inject itself in the ongoing philosophical debate of whether products or services which utilize open source are subject to the same intellectual property laws/behaviors as non-open source offerings," Ryan said in the statement. "Acacia and its subsidiaries do not philosophically differentiate any company, but rather seek to consistently and fairly monetize patent rights from those companies which incorporate patented technology."

The company also dismissed allegations that Microsoft somehow is using Acacia as a kind of proxy to fight a patent battle against Linux. A pair of key Acacia employees recently joined the patent-holding firm from Microsoft.

"While we are happy that former Microsoft employees Brad Brunell and Jonathan Taub have joined our team, there is no connection to this 'normal' business behavior of IP Innovation LLC, and the licensing activities with open source software providers," Ryan said in the statement. "Microsoft, as they publicly stated, has no involvement with IP Innovation LLC, and Acacia and its subsidiaries are only aligned in the spirit that investment and research which yields patents should be economically rewarded."

Last week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer revisited claims that Linux, and Red Hat Linux in particular, infringes on Microsoft's intellectual property.

Microsoft has yet to name the alleged patents and has not initiated legal action on alleged patents. The IP Innovation suit is the first such patent-infringement case leveled against Linux in the United States. Acacia Research claims that it has negotiated over 500 patent licensing agreements covering 25 different patented technologies.

Red Hat and Novell were not immediately available for comment.