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GNOME Foundation is Being Sued Because of Shotwell Photo Manager

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The GNOME Foundation is facing a lawsuit from Rothschild Patent Imaging, LLC. Patent troll Rothschild allege that Shotwell photo manager infringes its patent.
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By Joey Sneddon

  • GNOME Will “Vigorously Defend” Shotwell in Lawsuit

    Shotwell, the free, open source photo management app, has allegedly fallen foul of a patent held by Rothschild Patent Imaging, LLC.

    In an (understandably) short statement GNOME explain the situation as thus:

    “The GNOME Foundation has been made aware of a lawsuit from Rothschild Patent Imaging, LLC over patent 9,936,086. Rothschild allege that Shotwell, a free and open source personal photo manager infringes this patent.”

    You can view the (rather broad) patent in question on Google Patents.

    Now i’m not a patent expert (I majored in Spice Girls trivia) but the crux of the issue seems to concern Shotwell’s ability to get photos off of a connected device (a feature that’s pretty standard across most photo management software).

    Neil McGovern, who’s the Executive Director for the GNOME Foundation, says the organisation “intend vigorously defend against this baseless suit”.

LWN coverage by Corbet

  • A patent lawsuit against GNOME

    A company called Rothschild Patent Imaging LLC has filed a lawsuit [PDF] against the GNOME Foundation, alleging that the Shotwell photo manager violates patent 9,936,086. Stay tuned, more details will surely emerge.

Lawsuit Against GNU/Linux (GNOME) is Connected to Microsoft

Fairytale for 2019: GNOME to battle a patent troll in court

  • Fairytale for 2019: GNOME to battle a patent troll in court

    The GNOME Foundation, maker of the eponymous Linux desktop, has been hit with a sueball over how its Shotwell photo manager, er, manages photos.

    The plaintiff, Rothschild Patent Imaging LLC, has alleged in a complaint filed at the United States District Court Northern California that defendant, GNOME Foundation, has infringed its patent for a "Wireless image distribution system and method".

    The patent, 9,936,086, filed at the US Patent and Trademark Office on 2 June 2017, is dated 3 April 2018 and, in a nutshell, is concerned with flinging digital photos from one device to another wirelessly.

    Rothschild, which has a virtual office in Texas, has been busy with its new toy and has also slapped Magix with a complaint regarding the same patent. In Magix's case, it is the company's Photo Manager that has attracted the ire of Rothschild's lawyers.

GNOME faces 'baseless' patent lawsuit for organising images

  • GNOME faces 'baseless' patent lawsuit for organising images

    GNOME Foundation has been issued with a lawsuit from Rothschild Patent Imaging (RPI) for allegedly infringing a patent regarding the wireless distribution of images.

    According to the legal complaint, GNOME's Shotwell platform allegedly infringes the patent in question as it used an image capturing device to perform various functions.

    Shotwell is a free, open source, image organiser designed to provide personal photo management for the GNOME desktop environment.

    "The product imports and filters photographic images from cameras, allowing users to organise the photos and share them on social media," is one example of the alleged infringement, according to the complaint.

Leave GNOME alone: This patent troll is asking for trouble

  • Leave GNOME alone: This patent troll is asking for trouble

    You might ask how is being able to import photos and organize them patentable? Or at least be patentable in a patent dating from 2008? I believe Xerox PARC's Superpaint was importing images in 1973, and in the 35 years between those dates, there were just a few photo programs (Photoshop in 1988 comes to mind) that could import and sort images. If it's the wirelessly transmitting images that's the sticking point, it sure looks like Nikon was the first in 2005, with the Coolpix P1 and P2.

    But the ways of the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are strange and wondrous to behold when it comes to researching prior art.

    Be that as it may, this is far from the first time Rothchild, in true patent troll fashion, has sued companies for misusing its eponymous patent. Indeed, according to a 2015 RPX Corp report, Leigh Rothchild, the patent's creator, had filed the single largest number of lawsuits as non-practicing entities (NPEs) -- companies that don't produce products but profit purely from patent lawsuits -- with lawsuits against 141 defendants.

Mythical Troll Attacks GNOME

  • Mythical Troll Attacks GNOME

    This week, RPIL filed a lawsuit against the GNOME Foundation, claiming the Shotwell photo manager infringes its patent. Here’s what Rothschild claims to have invented in 2008:

    4. A method performed by an image-capturing mobile device, comprising:

    receiving a plurality of photographic images;

    filtering the plurality of photographic images using a transfer criteria wherein the transfer criteria is a subject identification of a respective photographic image within the plurality of photographic images, wherein the subject identification is based on a topic, theme or individual shown in the respective photographic image; and

    transmitting, via a wireless transmitter and to a second image capturing device, the filtered plurality of photographic images.

    That’s right. Rothschild thinks he was the first to come up with receiving a bunch of photos on a phone, filtering them based on a topic or theme, and transmitting them wirelessly to someone else’s mobile device.

    That’s probably not patentable subject matter under the Alice § 101 test. It’s probably not even valid under § 102 or § 103—I was doing exactly this on my MacBook using Lightroom when it was released in 2007, more than a year before the filing of the RPIL patent. A MacBook is an image-capturing mobile device, but even if it isn’t, porting that kind of software from a laptop to a smartphone is obvious. This is a clear example of the kind of patent that never should have been granted that IPR was designed to deal with.

By Graeme Burton at www.computing.co.uk

Bad Voltage

  • Stuart Langridge: 2×58: Fat For Purpose

    [00:30:50] Gnome are being sued over a software patent (“a method that involves capturing a bunch of images, filtering them based on a topic, theme or individual, and wirelessly transmitting the filtered images to another device”) which Shotwell allegedly violates

More Microsoft Connections

"Patent Attacks Against Open Source Intensify!"

  • Patent Attacks Against Open Source Intensify!

    We previously reported on how popular open source has been under attack from patent assertion entities. The attacks continue. The GNOME Foundation recently acknowledged that it was sued for patent infringement by Rothschild Patent Imaging LLC. The allegedly infringing product is Shotwell, a free and open source personal photo manager. Neil McGovern, Executive Director for the GNOME Foundation says “We have retained legal counsel and intend to vigorously defend against this baseless suit.” The suit alleges infringement of a single patent 9,936,086 titled “Wireless Image Distribution System and Method.”

    This suit is noteworthy in that it is not targeted at users of the open source product, but rather the entity that oversees the development. In the prior lawsuits we reported, the targets were typically companies using the open source.

    One of the potentially interesting issues that could be addressed if the case goes the distance is the request for injunctive relief. Rothschild seeks as part of its relief: “an Order Enjoining Defendant, its agents, officers, servants, employees, attorneys, and all persons in active concert or participation with Defendant who receive notice of the order from further infringement of United States Patent No. 9,936,086.” Shotwell is licensed under GNU Lesser General Public License version 2.1 (LPGL). This license permits licensees to copy and redistribute Shotwell to others. If somehow Rothschild obtains an injunction, will it apply just to the GNOME Foundation or downstream users as well? One of the novel underlying legal questions that would need to be addressed is whether licensees who redistribute an open source program are “in active concert or participation with Defendant.”

GNOME sends message to 'patent trolls' and files defence

  • GNOME sends message to 'patent trolls' and files defence against lawsuit

    The GNOME Foundation has filed a defence against the patent lawsuit it received a month ago, saying it wants to "send a message to all software patent trolls out there".

    The alleged "patent troll" in question, Rothschild Patent Imaging (RPI), sued the GNOME Foundation in September, making claims that the Linux desktop provider had infringed a patent related to the wireless distribution of images.

    In its original legal complaint, RPI said GNOME's Shotwell program infringed upon its patent as the platform wirelessly shared photos to social media, imported camera photos onto Shotwell, and filtered various photographic images by topics such as events or groups.

    In response to the patent lawsuit, the Linux desktop provider has filed three legal defences -- a motion to dismiss the case outright, an answer to the claim, and a counterclaim.

GNOME files defense against patent troll

  • GNOME files defense against patent troll

    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.

GNOME People and LWN cite the above

  • Molly de Blanc: Join GNOME in our fight against a patent troll

    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 license 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.

  • Richard Hughes: GNOME, and Free Software Is Under Attack

    A month ago, GNOME was hit by a patent troll. We’re fighting, but need some money to fund the legal defense, and counterclaim. I just donated, and if you use or develop free software you should too.

  • GNOME's patent-troll counterattack

    Rothschild Patent Imaging LLC filed a patent suit against the GNOME Foundation in September, asserting a violation in the Shotwell photo manager. GNOME has now gone on the counterattack, questioning the validity of the patent and whether it applies to Shotwell at all. There is also an unspecified counterclaim to strike back against Rothschild. "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."

Hell hath GNOME fury: Linux desktop org swings ax

  • Hell hath GNOME fury: Linux desktop org swings ax at patent troll's infringement claim

    After being hit with a patent-infringement lawsuit last month, the GNOME Foundation has fired back with a counterclaim – and urged the courts to dismiss the case.

    In a memo this week, the non-profit org said Rothschild Patent Imaging (RPI) – a patent assertion entity (PAE) it characterizes as a "patent troll" – had filed an infringement claim regarding the foundation's Shotwell image management application in a US district court in California.

    "It’s the first time a free software project has been targeted in this way, but we worry it won’t be the last," the GNOME Foundation said.

    "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 license 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."

    Said offered settlement appears to be about 20 times less than the typical cost of dealing with a patent claim. The median cost of patent litigation, when the potential penalty falls in the range of $1m to $10m, came to $1.5m in 2019, according to the American Intellectual Property Law Association’s "2019 Report of the Economic Survey."

The Debian Project stands with the GNOME Foundation

  • The Debian Project stands with the GNOME Foundation in defense against patent trolls

    In 2012, the Debian Project published our Position on Software Patents, stating the threat that patents pose to Free Software.

    The GNOME Foundation has announced recently that they are fighting a lawsuit alleging that Shotwell, a free and Open Source personal photo manager, infringes a patent.

    The Debian Project firmly stands with the GNOME Foundation in their efforts to show the world that we in the Free Software communities will vigorously defend ourselves against any abuses of the patent system.

Sriram Ramkrishna: Let’s fight back against patent trolls

  • Sriram Ramkrishna: Let’s fight back against patent trolls

    The GNOME Foundation has taken the extraordinary step of not just defending itself against a patent troll but to aggressively go after them. This is an important battle. Let’s me explain.

    The initial reason for Rothschild to come after us they clearly believe that the GNOME Foundation has money and that they can shake us down and get some easy money with their portfolio of patents.

    If we had lost or given them the money, it would have made us a mark to not just Rothschild, but to every other patent troll who are probably watching this unfold. Worse, it means that all the other non-profits would be fair game . We do not want to set that precedent. We need to set a strong message that if they attack us they attack us all.

    The GNOME Foundation manages infrastructure around the GNOME Project which consists of an incredible amount of software over a nearly 23 year period. This software is used in everything from medical devices, to consumer devices like the Amazon Kindle and Smart TVs, and of course the GNOME desktop.

Understanding the Rotschild vs GNOME case in 12 minutes

The Document Foundation supports GNOME Foundation

  • The Document Foundation supports GNOME Foundation fight against a patent troll

    The Document Foundation is always opposed to the use of patents to curtail Free Software development and use. The GNOME Foundation, a member of our Advisory Board, is now the target of patent troll Rothschild Patent Imaging LLC, for maintaining and shipping Shotwell, a Free Open Source personal photo manager for the GNOME desktop environment.

    The GNOME Foundation has declined to settle, and has filed three different papers with the court: a motion to dismiss the case, an answer to the claim, and a counterclaim against the troll, with the aim of invalidating their patent. We fully support GNOME Foundation’s decision to fight the patent troll so that no other users or developers are in danger of being sued by this and similar organizations.

GNOME Foundation steps up its open source patent defense

  • GNOME Foundation steps up its open source patent defense

    Patent lawsuits against open source projects are reportedly on the rise. The question is why. Yes, open source has never been more pervasive or popular, but at least some of the patent suits don't make much sense.

    Take, for example, Rothschild Patent Imaging (RPI) LLC's lawsuit against the GNOME Foundation. It's unclear what substantial value Rothschild hopes to gain by the action. When Rothschild Connected Devices Innovations, LLC sued Garmin (eventually dropping the suit), it targeted a cash-rich corporation. Here RPI is going after an open source foundation--GNOME reported just over $1 million in income in 2018 (up from around $250,000 in 2017). According to the GNOME Foundation, RPI offered to settle for a "high five figure amount," but the GNOME Foundation is fighting, not flinching.

    [...]

    RPI, in other words, doesn't appear to have a particular axe to grind against open source. It's not a SCO that sued IBM for $1 billion way back when, then hiked that number to $3 billion (and sprayed pay-or-be-sued letters across every known user of Linux). This is not to suggest that RPI's actions won't have an impact on open source. They could have a very negative impact on open source, generally, and Shotwell users, particularly, as GNOME Foundation executive director Neil McGovern told me.

Debian Donates to Support GNOME Patent Defense

  • Debian Donates to Support GNOME Patent Defense

    Today, the Debian Project pledges to donate $5,000 to the GNOME Foundation in support of their ongoing patent defense. On October 23, we wrote to express our support for GNOME in an issue that affects the entire free software community. Today we make that support tangible.

    "This is bigger than GNOME," said Debian Project Leader Sam Hartman. "By banding together and demonstrating that the entire free software community is behind GNOME, we can send a strong message to non-practicing entities (patent trolls). When you target anyone in the free software community, you target all of us. We will fight, and we will fight to invalidate your patent. For us, this is more than money. This is about our freedom to build and distribute our software."

Open Invention Network comes to GNOME's aid in patent troll...

  • Open Invention Network comes to GNOME's aid in patent troll fight

    Rothschild Patent Imaging (RPI) is suing the GNOME Foundation for violating its "wireless image distribution system and method patent" (US Patent No. 9,936,086)." It's just another day at the office for Rothschild, a Non-Practicing Entity (aka a patent troll), which has filed 714 lawsuits over the past six years. But for the non-profit GNOME Foundation, this lawsuit is a real threat. Fortunately, GNOME has friends. One of them, the Open Invention Network (OIN), a pro-Linux patent non-aggression consortium, is coming to GNOME's defense.

    In a surprise announcement at Open Source Summit Europe in Lyon, France, Keith Bergelt, OIN's CEO, announced that OIN has sicced its legal team in finding prior art that can be used to show that RPI's patent should be ruled invalid.

Open Invention Network Backs Gnome Project against Patent Troll

  • Open Invention Network Backs Gnome Project against Patent Troll

    The Gnome Project was recently sued by a company called Rothschild Patent Imaging for a patent related to the Shotwell photo manager. The Gnome community has just announced that it is counter-suing Rothschild, which they refer to as a patent troll.

    Keith Bergelt, OIN’s CEO, said in his keynote at Open Source Summit, Europe, “Rothschild is a bad company. This is an entity that’s antithetical to the goals of innovation. It will sue foundations. It will sue not for profits. It will sue individuals. It will sue corporations. Their playbook is to establish a pattern of wins through relatively modest settlements,” which can get other businesses to pay up without a fight.

Pro-Linux IP consortium Open Invention Network will 'pivot'...

  • Pro-Linux IP consortium Open Invention Network will 'pivot' to take on patent trolls

    Keith Bergelt, CEO of the Open Invention Network (OIN), says the organisation is "pivoting to focus on" risks from "non-practising entit[ies]" also known as patent trolls.

    The OIN was founded in 2005 by IBM, Suse, Philips, Red Hat and Sony, its purpose being to cross-license patents, royalty-free, subject to a non-aggression agreement, where the licensee agrees not to assert the patents against the Linux community.

Molly de Blanc: GNOME Patent Troll Defense Fund...

  • Molly de Blanc: GNOME Patent Troll Defense Fund reaches nearly 4,000 donors!

    A lot has happened since our announcement that Rothschild Imaging Ltd was alleging that GNOME is violating one of their patents. We wanted to provide you with a brief update of what has been happening over the past few weeks.

    Legal cases can be expensive, and the cost of a patent case can easily reach over a million dollars. As a small non-profit, we decided to reach out to our community and ask for financial support towards our efforts to keep patent trolls out of open source. More than 3,800 of you have stepped up and contributed to the GNOME Patent Troll Legal Defense Fund. We’d like to sincerely thank everyone who has donated. If you need any additional documentation for an employer match, please contact us.

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