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Red Hat Settles Two Patent Lawsuits

Legal eagles on staff with Red Hat are a busy group these days. The Linux distribution leader just announced that it has settled two of three patent lawsuits that had been hanging over its head for two years.

"We're putting the patent issue to rest with the settlement of patent litigation involving Firestar Software, and DataTern that provide broad protections, not only for Red Hat customers, but for the larger open source community," Red Hat spokesperson Kerrin Catallozzi wrote in an e-mail to InternetNews.com.

The companies Firestar and DataTern sued Red Hat in 2006 over an alleged violation of its U.S. Patent No. 6,101,502, which details a method for interfacing an object oriented application with a relational database. The suit pertained specifically to the JBoss Hibernate technology, which Red Hat owns.

According to a Red Hat FAQ on the settlement, JBoss Hibernate users will now receive a perpetual royalty-free, irrevocable worldwide license to use the disputed patent.

Red Hat has not yet publicly disclosed any financial terms of the patent settlement. Although the deal is seen lifting some the patent doubt that hung over the technology, issues still remain. For one, the October 2007 patent lawsuit filed by IP Innovation LLC is still outstanding. That claim alleges that Linux vendors are infringing on its U.S. Patent No. 5,072,412.

The patent, originally issued Dec. 10, 1991, describes a "User Interface with Multiple Workspaces for Sharing Display System Objects.

Then there is Microsoft.

To date Microsoft has never formally filed a patent lawsuit against Red Hat, though Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has implied that Red Hat users should "pay up," a reference suggesting that some of Microsoft technology patents may be encroached upon.

Red Hat's principal Linux competitor, Novell, does have a patent covenant deal with Microsoft that it reached in 2006.