Red Hat says the only way to fight patent trolls is to pay up

Linux distributor Red Hat says that the only way for companies to deal with patent trolls is to pay up and not have to worry about them.

Red Hat, which is set to become the first billion-dollar company focused exclusively on open source software, has had more than its fair share of lawyers banging on its door demanding cash.

It spends a lot of time in court dealing with “patent trolls.”

High on Red Hat’s shit list is FireStar, which it wrote a $4.2 million cheque for in 2008, and Acacia Research which buys up patents and sues people for violating them.

Although Red Hat sent Acacia’s briefs running, Red Hat has elected to settle with what it deems patent trolls in various cases

Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst said that when it’s relatively little money, it’s better to settle than fight it out in court.

It only fights when there are bigger principles at stake, such as when it believes people are really abusing the patent system.

Whitehurst told Network World that it will only fight when it has a good case that the patent is invalid, that it should never have been issued, it’s not a patentable thing, or there’s a lot of prior art.

His view is that software patents shouldn’t even exist because they impede innovation. Whitehurst also thinks that the court system is not properly equipped to handle patent disputes.

Whitehurst said that most of the patent trolling happens in courts in the Eastern District of Texas, generally with a jury that has not completed college and are not technologically savvy enough to work out if a patent is valid or not.

After all, this a part of the US where opposable thumbs are considered innovation and its residents are being asked to understand stuff that a PHD can’t get, he implied.

Most of the patent suits filed against Red Hat relate to middleware, which is esoteric at the best of times. Whitehurst said.