Google has found itself on the losing end of a $5m legal decision in a US patent case over Linux.
A jury in Texas found that the company was in violation of patents held by Bedrock Computer Technologies, and ordered the company to pay $5m in damages.
The case centred on Google's use of patents related to the Linux kernel. The software is used by Google for its server platforms and could also extend to its Android mobile platform.
The cash penalty will be minor for Google, which logged $8.58bn in revenues over the last quarter alone.
The precedent set by the ruling, however, could be more damaging. Intellectual property activist Florian Mueller said that the decision could have far-reaching consequences.
"Google can easily afford $5m, but this patent infringement case has major implications for the IT industry in general and for Linux in particular," Mueller wrote in a posting to his FOSS Patents blog.
"The plaintiff identified a portion of the Linux kernel as part of the 'Accused Instrumentalities'. Many companies using Linux have already been required by the patent holder to pay royalties, and many more will now, based on this jury verdict, elect to pay."
Mueller believes that the decision could also affect Google's Android platform and its rapidly growing developer ecosystem.
"More generally, this doesn't bode well for the 41 Android-related patent infringement suits that are going on at this stage," Mueller wrote.
"For example, if Google can't defend itself successfully against one patent held by a little non-practicing entity from Texas, what does this mean for Oracle's lawsuit over seven virtual machine patents?"
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