Red Hat Dragged into Patent Scuffle

Legal experts say Red Hat's recent acquisition of JBoss may have helped to make it a target for a patent infringement lawsuit.

Red Hat, the leading Linux distribution company, is facing a patent infringement lawsuit from FireStar Software, an object-transaction and business process integration company.

FireStar is asserting in its suit that JBosss Hibernate 3.0 infringes its 2000 U.S. Patent No. 6,101,502. (Red Hat acquired JBoss in June.) This patent details a method of interfacing an object-oriented software application with a relational database. Hibernate is a Java-based object/relational persistence and query service and is part of the JEMS (JBoss Enterprise Middleware System).

The Boxboro, Mass.-based FireStar filed its suit in the Eastern District of Texas Federal Court. This court is noted for its pro-patent holder track record. FireStar is asking the court (PDF download) to order Red Hat to cease infringing its patent, destroy all materials that use the patent, and, since it claims that Red Hat/JBoss has willfully violated its patent, pay triple the losses FireStar has incurred due to the alleged infringement, plus its legal costs.

The choice of venue and the lawsuits timing are no coincidence, according to Martin Zoltick, an attorney at the Washington, D.C.-based Rothwell, Figg, Ernst & Manbeck P.C, an intellectual property boutique law firm.

"The timing of the lawsuit just after the acquisition by Red Hat of JBoss, and the venue in which the lawsuit was filed are significant. FireStar has positioned itself as the plaintiff-patentee in what is currently the most favorable jurisdiction in the country for patent holders (i.e., the Eastern District of Texas), and now has a much deeper pocket defendant-accused infringer as its target (i.e., Red Hat)."

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