Patent suit against Linux has a Kevin Bacon-esque connection to Microsoft

It appears as though the first patent suit against Linux — targeting Red Hat and Novell — is now official. According to Groklaw’s Pamela Jones:

IP Innovation LLC has just filed a patent infringement claim against Red Hat and Novell. It was filed October 9, case no. 2:2007cv00447, IP Innovation, LLC et al v. Red Hat Inc. et al, in Texas. Where else? The patent troll magnet state…… [this is] The first ever patent infringement litigation involving Linux. Here’s the patent, for those who can look at it without risk. If in doubt, don’t. Here’s the complaint [PDF]….The plaintiff is asking for an injunction, along with damages.

Jones goes on to cite some relevant points of the complaint but then, like the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, unearths a potential connection to Microsoft. According to a story posted by Patent Troll Tracker well before this lawsuit turned up, IP Innovation LLC is a subsidiary of Acacia Research Corporation which the site classifies as a patent troll. This past July Acacia hired Jonathan Taub away from his job as Director, Strategic Alliances for the Mobile and Embedded Devices (MED) division at Microsoft and then, just last week, it hired Brad Brunell away from his job at Microsoft where, among other jobs, he served as General Manager, Intellectual Property Licensing.

The blogosphere is likely to have a field day with this connection and I suspect that dumpsters will be dived in hopes of finding a less tenuous connection to Microsoft. The timing of the suit seems rather serendipitous given both the timing of Brunell’s move as well as the threats that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer issued last week — ones that specifically mentioned patents (vs. the other form of intellectual property; copyrights). Even so,

Is there a connection? Well, there’s no smoking gun at this point. And if there was such a connection, you can’t help but wonder why Novell would be named in the suit since Microsoft and Novell are now working together to better integrate Windows with Novell’s Suse Linux and the arrangement includes patent protection for Novell. So, you’ll have to judge for yourself what’s going on here.

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