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A jury in the Eastern District of Texas handed a verdict in favor of Bedrock Computer Technologies LLC, determining that Google infringes a Linux-related patent, that the patent is valid, and that Google should pay $5 million for past infringement (through the trial date). The jury took this decision on April 15, 2011, and yesterday (April 20, 2011) the verdict form became accessible via the court's electronic document system.
Google can easily afford $5 million if it has to, but this patent infringement case has major implications for the IT industry in general and for Linux in particular. The plaintiff identified a portion of the Linux kernel as part of the "Accused Instrumentalities". Many companies using Linux have already been required by the patent holder to pay royalties, and many more will now, based on this jury verdict, elect to pay.
Finally, every program is threatened constantly by software patents. States should not allow patents to restrict development and use of software on general-purpose computers, but in those that do, we wish to avoid the special danger that patents applied to a free program could make it effectively proprietary. To prevent this, the GPL assures that patents cannot be used to render the program non-free.