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Patent-troll company attacks Novell and Red Hat

IP Innovation, a subsidiary of Acacia Technologies Group, has filed a patent infringement claim against Linux distributors Novell and Red Hat for violating U.S. Patent No. 5,072,412 for a User Interface with Multiple Workspaces for Sharing Display System Objects issued Dec. 10, 1991 along with two other similar patents.

This patent was originally made in 1991 by Xerox PARC. It also references even earlier patents. The short version of what this patent covers is that it describes a way to create a window with controls that enables users to switch between views of multiple objects within that window.

The company, whose parent company’s officers include former senior Microsoft executives, claims that Red Hat and Novell have infringed its patents in Red Hat Linux system, the Novell SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop) and the Novell SLES (SUSE Linux Enterprise Server).

Acacia recently added two new corporate officers from Microsoft. These include Jonathan Taub, who joined its Acacia Technologies group as a vice president. Immediately before joining Acacia, Taub was Microsoft’s director of strategic alliances for the mobile and embedded devices. At Microsoft, Taub received a 2006 Heroes and Key Achievers award from Microsoft for negotiating strategic deals with Qualcomm and STMicroelectronics.

Just days before Acacia’s subsidiary launched its patent lawsuit against Red Hat and Novell, on October 1st, Acacia hired Brad Brunell as a senior vice president. Brunell joins Acacia from Microsoftwhere, during his 16 year career, he held a number of management positions, including general manager of IP (intellectual property) licensing.

At Microsoft, Brunell was as responsible for inbound and outbound patent licensing. He created and managed a team of negotiation, financial and legal experts. This group developed outbound intellectual property licensing programs and brought in intellectual property via acquisitions, strategic partnerships and licensing.

In the patent complaint, which was filed in the patent lawsuit-friendly Eastern Texas U.S. District Court, IP Innovation claims that not only has “Red Hat’s and Novell’s infringements … injured plaintiffs and plaintiffs are entitled to recover damages adequate to compensate them for such infringement but in no event less than a reasonable royalty but that Red Hat and Novell had received notice of the patents, and “therefore the infringing activities have been deliberate and willful.” If a company is found guilty of willful patent infringement, the plaintiffs is entitled to increased damages.

Novell, for one, won’t be taking the case lying down. Bruce Lowry, Novell’s director of global PR said, “We’re assessing this filing now. Obviously, we’ll defend our interests. But it’s too early at this stage to talk about specifics on this case.”

A version of this story first appeared in Linux-Watch.

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