Hibernate is a Open Source Object Persistence Framework for Java. It allows Java Objects to be stored and retreived from a Relational Database. Many of the developers for Hibernate are employed by JBoss, which was recently aquired by Red Hat. FireStar Software has filed a patent infringement suit against Red Hat, claiming that Hibernate infringes US Patent 6,101,502.
Hibernate is in no way unique however. Toplink, a object relational mapping and access system developed for Smalltalk, was available in the early 1990's, well before the priority date of the patent in 1998. Other Open Source frameworks also implement the same concepts, all of which were created independently.
Clearly the patent is without merit, and yet another example of software companies being attacked in a cynical attempt to extract large settlements, and yet another example of why we need to see explicit exclusion of software from patents in New Zealand in the same way Europe has excluded software patents.
Already a web site has been created to collect prior art to fight the patent.