Red Hat releases details of Firestar patent deal

For the first time Red Hat has published details of a patent-infringement settlement online

In an unprecedented move, Linux vendor Red Hat has published the legal details of a patent-infringement settlement it made last month with Firestar and DataTern.

On a company blog, Red Hat vice president and assistant general counsel Rob Tiller said the company made the settlement document public to answer customer questions and prevent customers from being threatened by litigation in the future.

"We hope it will be a useful tool both in addressing existing legal threats and also in suggesting methods for addressing threats as yet unknown," he said in a blog entry.

However, financial terms are missing from the document because they are not being disclosed.

The document does disclose legal details of extensive patent protections and covenants against future infringement claims not only for Red Hat products, but also for products that are derivatives of Red Hat's software.

"In the agreement, we obtained coverage not only for Red Hat, but also for upstream and downstream members of the community involved in developing, using, modifying and distributing code included in Red Hat’s products and in the community projects that Red Hat sponsors, including Fedora," Tiller writes.

This is important because it demonstrates that "it is possible to satisfy the letter and spirit of GPL licensing in resolving patent litigation," he says. GPL is the open-source licence for Red Hat's products.

Last month Red Hat said it had settled a patent suit brought against it in 2006 by Firestar, which claimed that JBoss' Hibernate product violated a patent it held. Firestar later assigned the patent to DataTern, which joined the suit.

Red Hat commented little on the settlement beyond saying at the time that it had secured "extensive protections for its customers and the larger open-source community that Red Hat relies upon."

Firestar makes EdgeNode, a platform for handling business processes between enterprises. DataTern sells ObjectSpark, a data services runtime engine that moves data between an application's logical processing layer and data sources.

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