Sometimes, when you have a really good idea, you have this irrepressible urge to do something crazy with it. Like register it with the government. And then, when other companies independently develop similar ideas, you protect that registration by suing the pants off those other companies. It is, after all, the American way.
And it’s what Red Bend Software is doing to Google over an algorithm in Google Chrome. The Courgette algorithm checks the software for updates (using a difference table), then pushes the packed updates to the software. Unfortunately, it violates a 2003 patent owned by Red Bend, which protects a substantially similar idea.
This does happen from time to time (probably more often than we’d think). Red Bend informed Google of their error on September 7 and waited for them to update Chrome.
But nothing happened. To make the case worse, Google had also published the algorithm as part of the open source code for Chrome, which Red Bend says is even worse. That combined with six weeks without redress, brought Red Bend to sue Google for willful copyright infringement, which carries three times the financial penalties as unintentional copyright infringement.
Sometimes, of course, companies use the patent system as a kind of legal trap—they register “obvious” ideas, or those with the potential to be used, and lie in wait for unsuspecting companies. But Red Bend does appear to be a legitimate mobile software company—and, interestingly enough, a member of the Open Mobile Alliance, the organization that promotes open standards development for mobile software.
A little ironic, then, that they’re especially upset about the open source code for the algorithm.
What do you think? Should Red Bend get their money? Or should they “get with the program”?