Gnome Foundation Settles Lawsuit
Written by Kay Ewbank   
Thursday, 25 June 2020

The GNOME Foundation has settled its lawsuit with Leigh M Rothschild and Rothschild Patent Imaging. Rothschild Patent Imaging agreed that, for all of their patents and future patents, they will not sue any user or developer of software under an Open Source Initiative-approved license (and their updated versions) where the software forms a material part of the infringement allegation.

Rothschild had alleged that Shotwell, a free and open source personal photo manager, infringed their patent on "wireless image distribution system and method patent" (US Patent No. 9,936,086). The Rothschild patent is regarded as excessively broad in its description and invalid because it patented existing prior technology. Rothschild Patent Imaging (RPIL) is one of more than 30 subsidiaries created by Leigh Rothschild.  Rothschild is a Non-Practicing Entity that has filed 714 lawsuits over the past six years.

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Many regard Rothschild as a patent troll, which the Electronic Frontier Foundation describes as using "patents as legal weapons, instead of actually creating any new products or coming up with new ideas." Patent trolls register very broad patents on ideas that aren't new or different, which is relatively easy to do in the United States. The trolls then send out threatening letters to companies that have allegedly infringed their patents, and threaten legal action unless a licensing fee of around $50,000 is paid. Most companies settle rather than risk higher costs in court.

GNOME said in the announcement:

"In this walk-away settlement, GNOME receives a release and covenant not to be sued for any patent held by Rothschild Patent Imaging. Further, both Rothschild Patent Imaging and Leigh Rothschild are granting a release and covenant to any software that is released under an existing Open Source Initiative approved license (and subsequent versions thereof), including for the entire Rothschild portfolio of patents, to the extent such software forms a material part of the infringement allegation."

Neil McGovern, Executive Director for the GNOME Foundation said:

“I’m exceptionally pleased that we have concluded this case. This will allow us to refocus our attention on creating a free software desktop, and will ensure certainty for all free and open source software in future.”

Leigh Rothschild said:

“I’m pleased that we have managed to settle this issue amicably. I have always supported the innovation of open source software and its developers and encourage its innovation and adoption.”

GNOME was represented pro-bono by Matt Berkowitz, Kieran Kieckhefer, Joy Wang and Larry Crouch from Shearman & Sterling LLP.

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More Information

GNOME Foundation Statement

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 25 June 2020 )