October 21, 2019

GNOME files defense against patent troll

Orinda, CA – 2019/10/21

Image from Marco Verch is available under cc-by-2.0.

A month ago, GNOME was hit by a patent troll for developing the Shotwell image management application. It’s the first time a free software project has been targeted in this way, but we worry it won’t be the last. Rothschild Patent Imaging, LLC offered to let us settle for a high five figure amount, for which they would drop the case and give us a licence to carry on developing Shotwell. This would have been simple to do so; it would have caused less work, cost less money, and provided the Foundation a lot less stress. But it also would be wrong.  Agreeing to this would leave this patent live, and allow this to be used as a weapon against countless others. We will stand firm against this baseless attack, not just for GNOME and Shotwell, but for all free and open source software projects.

For these reasons, GNOME Foundation Executive Director Neil McGovern instructed our legal counsel at Shearman & Sterling to file three papers with the court in California.

First: a motion to dismiss the case outright. We don’t believe that this is a valid patent, or that software can or should be able to be patented in this way. We want to make sure that this patent isn’t used against anyone else, ever.

Second: our answer to the claim. We don’t believe that there is a case GNOME needs to answer to. We want to show that the use of Shotwell, and free software in general, isn’t affected by this patent.

Third: our counterclaim. We want to make sure that this isn’t just dropped when Rothschild realizes we’re going to fight this.

We want to send a message to all software patent trolls out there — we will fight your suit, we will win, and we will have your patent invalidated. To do this, we need your help. Please help support the GNOME Foundation in sending a message that patent trolls should never target free software by making a donation to the GNOME Patent Troll Defense Fund. If you can’t, please help spread the word with your friends on social media.