Red Hat opens up on patent settlement – or does it?

From the ‘read the fine print files‘ :

Red Hat VP and Assistant General Counsel Rob Tiller has publicly posted the terms of the patent agreement he helped to negotiate last month with Firestar Software, Inc. and DataTern Inc. The general idea behind Tiller’s post is to be transparent about the deal – the only problem in my simplistic view is that it’s missing some very key information about money.

According to Tiller:

Section 3 of the agreement is entitled ‘Payment,’ but the material on
this issue has been redacted here. This is because the parties agreed
that this term must remain confidential.

How can you be transparent about a settlement without discussing money? How much is a patent worth today? I certainly would want to know and I’d bet millions of others would too.

The money issue aside the other key item from my point of view that is actually clarified reasonably well by Tiller relates to who is actually protected by this deal.  The patent in question has to do with technology that is used by Red Hat’s JBoss division, but Red Hat has done the RIGHT THING and gone a step further to protect the whole community – and not just its own customers.

The agreement specifically notes that it protects products distributed under a ‘Red Hat Brand’ as well as its derivatives.

Because this includes downstream derivatives and combinations
based on projects developed upstream from Red Hat, JBoss, and Fedora,
it covers not only software distributed by us, but also software from
such projects that is distributed by our competitors such as Novell and
Sun Microsystems under their own brands.

This is a fantastic thing. Now if Novell had been as community minded when it struck its patent covenant deal with Microsoft the biggest patent threat hovering over the Linux community as a whole IMHO would just go away.

Hopefully others will learn from Red Hat’s community approach to patent deals and we’ll see more of this sort in the future that protects the interests of ALL users.

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