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Novell and Red Hat sued for patent infringement

Linux distribution lawsuit could be key test case in open source independence.

Novell and Red Hat are being sued for alleged Linux patent infringement according to documents filed with a Texas court last week.

The plaintiffs, IP Innovation and Technology Licensing Corporation, who administer intellectual property (IP) licences and information claim three US patents within the Linux operating system have been infringed upon by Red Hat and Novell's own Linux distribution versions.

Both IP firms claim to own patent number 5,072,412 for a "User Interface with Multiple Workspaces for Sharing Display System Objects", as well as similar patent numbers 5,533,183 and 5,394,521 issued between late 1991 and early 1995.

The lawsuit accuses Red Hat of infringing on the patents by selling the Red Hat Linux system. And Novell has been targeted for the Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop and the Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

It also contends that the both vendors had previously been notified of the infringement but that, in continuing to distribute these products, they are deliberately and wilfully infringing on the patents.

The suit calls for an injunction to stop both vendors from continuing to infringe on the patents as well as unspecified damages and any "other relief that the court or a jury may deem just and proper".

Lawyers for the two IP firms could not be reached and neither vendor had issued any official comment at time of writing.

But Novell has been reported as saying that it will examine the claims made by the lawsuit with a view to defending its interests in court.

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