Lawsuit Against GNOME Foundation for Developing Shotwell Photo Manager [Updated]

Rothschild Patent Imaging and Leigh M. Rothschild filed a lawsuit a while back explaining that GNOME’s Shotwell was infringing one of their patents.

While GNOME clearly labelled it as something baseless — but it did consume some resources and need some help from the community to dismiss the lawsuit as soon as possible.

Update … the GNOME Rothschild lawsuit has been settled

Finally, in an official announcement by GNOME, it looks like the patent case against GNOME is now resolved.

The announcement read:

Today, on the 20th of May 2020, the GNOME Foundation, Rothschild Patent Imaging, and Leigh M. Rothschild are pleased to announce that the patent dispute between Rothschild Patent Imaging and GNOME has been settled.

Not just limited to the resolution, but the settlement also grants the release to any open-source software under the Open Source Initiative approved license against the entire Rothschild portfolio of patents. So, now a lot of open-source software can stay safe from baseless infringement allegations by Rothschild Patent Imaging.

Both GNOME and Rothschild shared their statements after the settlement:

Neil McGovern, Executive Director for the GNOME Foundation said “I’m exceptionally pleased that we have concluded this case. This will allow us to refocus our attention on creating a free software desktop, and will ensure certainty for all free and open source software in future.”

Leigh Rothschild said “I’m pleased that we have managed to settle this issue amicably. I have always supported the innovation of open source software and its developers and encourage its innovation and adoption.”

Finally, GNOME can put all its focus back on improving the desktop experience with GNOME without worrying about the patent trolls for now.

Earlier…

In September 2019, The GNOME Foundation faced a lawsuit from Rothschild Patent Imaging, LLC. Rothschild alleges that Shotwell, a free and open source personal photo manager infringed 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:

Gnome Shotwell Lawsuite
GNOME Shotwell Lawsuit

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.

Rothschiled Patent
Rothschild Patent Imaging Lawsuits

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

Patent Troll Attacks Gnome Foundation

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.

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