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7/7/2006
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FireStar Files Patent Suit Against Red Hat

One IP attorney says the suit, which relates to JBoss' Hibernate 3.0 object mapping technology, could have serious ramifications for the Linux company and other software developers.

FireStar Software's patent infringement suit against Red Hat is expected to take center stage on the legal front as SCO's copyright claims against IBM fade, according to one attorney.

Tom Carey, an IP attorney and partner at Bromberg & Sunstein, Boston, said FireStar's patent case against Red Hat over JBoss' Hibernate 3.0's object mapping technology—filed in late June in a Texas court—could have serious ramifications for the Linux company and other software developers. "It's potentially more significant than the SCO [copyright] case because it's about a patent that covers a basic concept or idea, not an expression of an idea, which copyright covers," Carey said. "It's a more powerful case. That's why RIM [Research In Motion] ended up settling [with NTP] for so much."

One JBoss partner said Acton, Mass.-based FireStar's claims are baseless since many software vendors are mapping object-oriented code against relational databases in similar fashion.

"This is a patent that, as any developer will tell you, should not have been issued in the first place. Ninety percent of the software companies in the world today are likely violating this patent," said Navin Nagiah, CEO of Cignex, Santa Clara, Calif. "If that is the case, why is FireStar going after Red Hat? Why not [go after] Microsoft, IBM, Accenture or Oracle?"

As that patent case was filed, a Utah court in late June dealt Darl McBride, CEO of SCO, a blow by dismissing 182 of SCO's copyright claims against IBM. But Carey claims the SCO IP case has become irrelevant. "Its effect on open source is nil. It's dead," he said.

One SCO partner, for his part, said neither SCO's legal claims against IBM nor its Unix business is dead. "They do have a good case for pieces of code they know have been used by IBM in AIX and Linux," said Stephen Pirolli, principal at Ask Technologies, Bala Cynwyd, Pa.

"But will SCO be around in three years? From an operating-system standpoint, I can't imagine it'll ever stop. SCO's Unix is too good of an OS," Pirolli said.

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