Red Hat is the most successful pure play open source company on the planet, generating over $1 billion in revenue a year. Its success is rooted in a strong legal basis and understanding of how open source software works.
Red Hat is using its open source expertise to its advantage in a new legal battle over alleged storage patent infringement with the Gluster filesystem. Red Hat acquired Gluster in 2011 for $136 million. The Gluster technology is now the cornerstone of Red Hat's Storage technology, which recently hit its 2.0 release.
Backup storage vendor Twin Peaks Software filed a complaint in July with United States District Court, Northern District of California, San Jose Division, alleging patent infringement. The alleged infringement deals with United States Patent Number 7,418,439, (the '439 patent), titled "Mirror File System," which Twin Peaks owns.
In a legal filing, Red Hat denies that Twin Peaks' claim has any merit. Red Hat stated that the '439 Patent was not duly and lawfully issued.
"The claims of the '439 Patent are invalid and unenforceable because they fail to satisfy one or more conditions for patentability," Red Hat stated in a legal filing.
In Red Hat's view, "the alleged invention of the 439 Patent lacks utility, is taught by, suggested by, and/or, anticipated or obvious in view of the prior art, is not enabled, and/or is unsupported by the written description of the patented invention, and no claim of the ’439 Patent can be validly construed to cover any of Defendants' products."
Going a step further, Red Hat is taking aim at Twin Peaks' source code, alleging that the company's software violates the open source GPL license. The GPL license carries a number of requirements, including one that the source code be made publicly available.
"Like Red Hat, Twin Peaks distributes software that runs on the Linux operating system," Red Hat stated. "Unlike Red Hat, however, Twin Peaks distributes software only under a proprietary license that forbids copying, and does not make any of the source code for any of its products publicly available."
Red Hat is claiming that Twin Peaks has copied open source GPL licensed code, originally authored by Red Hat, into Twin Peaks products. Twin Peaks does not, however, make their source code publicly available.
"Twin Peaks has failed to comply with the explicit conditions of the GPL," Red Hat's legal filing stated. "Twin Peaks is thus illegally free-riding off of Red Hat’s contributions to util-linux, as well as the contributions of many others in the FOSS community to that software."
Red Hat is now seeking the dismissal of the patent claims over the '439 patent and is also asking the court for damages over the alleged Twin Peaks' infringement of Red Hat's GPL licensed code.