Sun Adds Patent-Busting to Its Bag of Tricks

Just over a month ago, we brought you the news that Red Hat had washed its hands of long-term patent litigation with Firestar Software over object-oriented software and relational databases. We now learn the deal came just a month too early, as last week the Patent and Trademark Office invalidated the patent in question — the result of a "brother-in-arms" effort by Red Hat competitor Sun Microsystems.

According to an entry by Sun General Counsel Mike Dillon on his company blog, Sun began searching for prior art when Firestar sued Red Hat, anticipating that a victory against Red Hat would put other companies and the Open Source community in danger of a similar fate. The search, and the resulting reexamination by the PTO, took quite a while — two weeks longer than the litigation, in fact — but it paid off, as the PTO notified Sun last week that the patent had been ruled invalid. What exactly this means for the Red Hat settlement, which now covers technology which Firestar no longer has legal claim to, is not yet clear, but we suspect that Red Hat's legal team is on it, and that Firestar may start screening their calls. As for Sun and the Open Source community, it's a victory for striking down one more prohibitive proprietary roadblock, as well as a protection for all from similar prosecution.

Justin Ryan is News Editor for
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