The GNOME Foundation is facing a lawsuit from Rothschild Patent Imaging, LLC. Rothschild allege that Shotwell, a free and open source personal photo manager infringes its patent.
Neil McGovern, Executive Director for the GNOME Foundation says “We have retained legal counsel and intend to vigorously defend against this baseless suit. Due to the ongoing litigation, we unfortunately cannot make any further comments at this time.”
While Neil cannot make any further comments on this issue, let me throw some lights on this matter.
The patent in the question deals with wireless image distribution. The patent is ridiculous because it could mean any software that transfers images from one device to another could be violating this patent.
And that’s what this lawsuit is about. If you read the lawsuit, you’ll see why Neil called it baseless:
Shotwell is not the only one being sued
I did a quick web search with “Rothschild Patent Imaging” and I couldn’t find their website. I am guessing that it doesn’t exist. However, I come across a number of “Rothschild Patent Imaging vs XYZ” lawsuits.
I dig a little deeper. As per patent litigation website RPX Insight, there are six active cases and forty two inactive cases involving Rothschild Patent Imaging.
There are a number of companies being sued if there product mentions grouping photos based on date, location etc, facial recognition and transferring images from one device to another. Sounds crazy, right?
But it won’t be crazy if it’s someone’s full time job.
Patent Litigation Abuse aka Patent Trolling
Rothschild Patent Imaging is owned by Leigh M Rothschild.
The modus operandi of ‘inventor’ Leigh M Rothschild is to get patents on obvious ideas. And that obvious idea would be so broad that they could sue a huge number of organizations. Defendants have two choices, either pay Rothschild to settle the lawsuit or pay even more to lawyers and fight the court battle.
Rothschild Patent Imaging LLC might be formed to sue companies dealing with grouping and transferring images. In 2017, Rothschild Connected Devices Innovations LLC also filed a number of patent infringement lawsuits against companies that hinted mixing drinks and connected devices.
Ars Technica called Rothschild a patent troll because he was demanding $75,000 from each defendant for settling the lawsuits.
Smaller companies might have been intimidated but when Rothschild targeted a giant like Garmin, they hit back. Rothschild backed out of the lawsuit but Garmin filed a counter and Rothschild was asked to pay the legal expenses to Garmin.
Unfortunately, patent trolling is a big business, specially in the United States of America. There are companies with the sole business model of suing other companies. They are almost exclusively based in East Texas where the laws favors such patent trolls. EFF has a dedicated page that lists the victims of patent trolls.
I am so glad that GNOME Foundation has decided to fight this lawsuit vigorously.