3 min read

Yesterday, the GNOME Foundation shared that Rothschild Patent Imaging LLC has filed a lawsuit against them stating that their Shotwell photo manager and other similar products infringe its patent.

On information and belief, Defendant sells, offers to sell, and/or uses network storage systems and methods including, without limitation, the Gnome Shotwell platform, and any similar products (“Product”), which infringe at least Claim 4 of the ‘086 Patent,” the lawsuit reads.

Shotwell is a digital photo manager for the GNOME desktop environment. It allows you to import photos and videos from a disk or digital camera directly and organize them by keywords and events. It also includes editing features for cropping, rotating, adjusting levels and color balance, straightening, and eliminating red-eye.

GNOME has called this lawsuit “baseless” and has decided to fight against this case head-on. In a statement, Neil McGovern, Executive Director for the GNOME Foundation said, “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.

The 9,936,086 patent titled “Wireless image distribution system and method” was filed by Rothschild Patent Imaging LLC at the US Patent and Trademark Office on 2 June 2017 and got accepted on 3 April 2018. It talks about wirelessly connecting an image capturing device with a receiving device and sharing them based on transfer criteria. This patent is very vague and can be applied to literally any software that transfers images from one device to another.

Also, there are quite a few similar technologies that GNOME can present as prior art resulting in the invalidation of the lawsuit. There is Shotwell’s predecessor, F-Shot that was discontinued in 2017. In a discussion on LW.NET, a user shared, “Shotwell’s predecessor (F-Spot) had equivalent “wireless” functionality at least two years before this patent was first applied for.

The GNOME Foundation is not the first one who has been sued by Rothschild Patent Imaging LLC. It looks like the company has been on a suing spree adding Cyberlink.com,  QNAP Inc., Pinterest, Inc., Piximity, LLC, Magix Computer Products International Co. on their list.

Considering its history, many are saying that Rothschild Patent Imaging LLC is nothing but a patent troll. A user on Hacker News commented, “Rothschild Patent Imaging appears to be the company holding the rights to a number of dubious patents filed by Leigh M. Rothschild, who appears to have a well-deserved reputation as a patent troll.

Many users commented that there should be some kind of “reform” to eliminate patent trolling. A user added, “One reform worth considering is that an entity that can be demonstrated to persistently engage in frivolous patent lawsuits should lose the rights to their entire portfolio.

This could be accomplished with a legal mechanism that allows the defendant to counter-sue the plaintiff as a patent troll. In this scope, they could bring in the previous litigation history of the plaintiff (or any related entities, piercing the corporate veil). If the judge rules in the defendant’s favor, then all of the plaintiff’s patents (and any related entities) are immediately released into the public domain.”

Another user suggested, “Another potential reform (from the book “Radical Markets”) – charge a (say 1%) property tax on the patent based on self-assessed value, with the caveat that you MUST sell the patent to anyone willing to pay your claimed value.

This basically destroys patent trolling, which only works because of the asymmetrical difference in cost between obtaining a patent and defending a patent lawsuit. If the troll prices the patent too low, the person they are suing just buys it, if they charge too much, they have a massive recurring tax bill (and an incentive to settle quickly, not to drag it out in the courts for years).

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