I’ve previously argued that IP indemnification should be as much a part of the software selling process as companies guaranteeing that babies were not harmed in producing their products. I was later informed that US law can hold both vendors and users of infringing products liable.
I suspect that folks would be surprised to learn which large software vendors do not offer IP indemnification. The idea being that these large vendors have deeper pockets than their customers, and hence will be sued directly. This is often not the case with most open source vendors whose customers often have much deeper pockets than the vendor itself. Only Red Hat, Novell and Sun would fall into the handful of open source vendors that have the financial resources for an IP-related legal battle. That’s why I’m interested to see what will come of the recently filed case against Red Hat/JBoss. The claim also names Dell, HP and Genuitec as defendants because the sell or distribute the infringing products.
Software Tree LLC is claiming that JBoss infringes on its patent for “exchanging data and commands between an object oriented system and a relational system”. I should stress that Software Tree LLC does not appear to be a patent troll; they sell object-relational mapping software for Java.
Software Tree’s patent relates to capability that is included in the popular JBoss Hibernate product. According to Sourceforge.net, over 4.6 million downolads of Hibernate (and its various packages) have occurred since November 2001.
I’m certain that more than a handful of very large customers have a copy or two of Hibernate running in their enterprise without support contracts with Red Hat/JBoss. Will this claim be an impetus for buying a support contract, and hence receiving Red Hat’s indemnification?
[UPDATE: 2009-03-05 9.30a ET] I’m told that Oracle is also a defendant, although this filing is from April 2008.