Celebrating GNOME’s Patent Settlement


The Open Source Initiative would like to congratulate the GNOME Foundation on its recent settlement of the patent lawsuit alleging that the Shotwell software infringed patents owned by Rothschild Patent Imaging. The settlement was a huge achievement — not only did GNOME pay nothing, but Rothschild Patent Imaging and its owner, Leigh M. Rothschild, have agreed that, for all of their patents and future patents, they will not sue any user or developer of software under an Open Source Initiative-approved license (and their updated versions) where the software forms a material part of the infringement allegation. That is freedom from suit for the open source software world for over 100 patents.

This is a remarkable accomplishment that could only happen with the overwhelming support of the entire open source community. U.S.-based patent infringement lawsuits are notoriously expensive, so a business model has developed to sue those who appear to lack the financial means to mount a defense. The plaintiff is successful when the defendant pays a substantial sum simply because it is less than the cost to defend the lawsuit. However, with community support GNOME was able to raise over $150,000 from more than 4,000 donors, allowing it to not only stand strong against the threat but also ultimately procure a huge benefit for the open source community at large. This suit demonstrates to the world once again that the open source community and our values of mutual support, collaboration, cooperation, and transparency can accomplish greater ends than any one person standing alone.

The suit also demonstrates the critical role OSI-approved licenses play. Using an OSI-approved license demonstrates that the software project participants share common values that ultimately serve to spur innovation for the benefit of our society as a whole. Which now, thanks to the GNOME Foundation, is no longer inhibited by the threat of patent suits from the Rothschild parties. We are optimistic that more patent holders, non-practicing entities and practicing entities alike, will make the same calculation and help build instead of tear down.

The OSI Board of Directors

Image credit:celebrating-gnome.jpg” by Open Source Initiative, 2020, CC BY-SA 2.0, is a derivative (cropped and scaled) of “Pyro Spectaculars Marquee Event 2012, 5 March 2013” a photo by Pyro Spectaculars by Souza, available under CC BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr.