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GNOME chooses to fight legally against alleged patent infringement

GNOME Foundation decides to legally fight a patent infringement claim on one of its programs. After refusing to propose a possible licensing agreement, the GNOME Foundation responds to the claim and calls the patent troll company.

gnome-foundation-smash-patent-shotwell-free-software-open-source-community-gtk-image-manager-photos This claim described that the open source application for photo management, the Shotwellviolated such a patent. At the time of the incident, Neil McGovern, the executive director of the GNOME Foundation, stated: We hire lawyers and intend to defend ourselves vigorously against this unfounded process. Due to the ongoing litigation, unfortunately we cannot comment further on the matter.. gnome-foundation-smash-patent-shotwell-free-software-open-source-community-gtk-image-manager-photos

After almost a month, this situation unfolded. More statements were made on the GNOME website. Some very alarming, which explain more about what happened.

This is the first time an open source project is being targeted by something like this, but we worry that it is not the last. Rothschild Patent Imaging, LLC offered to pay us a high five-digit fee, for which they would drop the case and give us a license to continue the development of Shotwell..

We can observe at first glance, the possible real intention behind this action, to make profits easily. However, later the GNOME Foundation has a special message for what they dubbed patent trolls.

And now, what to do?

Basically there would be two exits, accept this deal, pay a hell of money and subjugate and not object. The second, adopted by GNOME, will go ahead and fight legally, demonstrating that such allegations are unfounded. This choice, not the easiest one, can prevent future open source projects from being affected by this patent claim. As for costs, perhaps the first option is even more affordable (and it looks like it was 5 digits), as all of these charges in court may turn out to be more expensive; But financially speaking, the consequences for an entire community would be catastrophic.

Then, Neil McGovern instructed the legal advisor of the Shearman & Sterling (representing GNOME) to file three documents in the California, US court. Being them:

  • A hand to dismiss the case immediately. The GNOME Foundation does not believe that the patent is valid or that software can be patented in this way. The goal is to ensure that this patent is never used against anyone, never;
  • An official response to the RPI claim. There is no case in GNOME's design to which they must respond and that the use of Shotwell, or any free software in general, is not affected by this patent;
  • And lastly, a counterclaim claim. Assuming that Rothschild does not rule out the patent infringement claim, after realizing that the GNOME Foundation will fight it.

It seems that RPI will have to pay the legal fees involved in handling this case. With this fierce onslaught of GNOME, companies that use these resources may think twice or three times before using such devices.

What is this patent and what does it specifically do?

The patent (US 9,936,086) seems to be as generic as possible, encompassing any Wireless and Wireless Image Distribution System and Method. Briefly no software can interact with other equipment and exchange images via wireless network. This is precisely one of the features of Shotwell, allowing the transfer of images from a device to the computer via wifi.

This is not the first time RPI has tried to invest in such a way against other companies or organizations. According to the motion filed in court by GNOME, she has used the same patent against five other organizations, and her head Leigh Rothschild, in the last five years alone, has been involved in over 300 patent infringement cases.

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GNOME Foundation Message, about the case

This whole situation is not over yet, but it does not seem wise to say that RPI comes out triumphant with all this. Alis, the GNOME Foundation has left a message for the Patent Trolls:

We would like to send a message to all software patent trolls because we will fight your lawsuit, win and have your patent invalid. To do this we need your help. Help support the GNOME Foundation by sending a message that patent trolls should never target free software by donating to the GNOME Patent Troll Defense Fund. If you can't, help spread the word with your friends on social media..

Message given, I hope that episodes like these will not happen anymore. I know these patent industries generate such cases in the US almost daily.

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