Cloudflare emerges triumphant in Blackbird patent lawsuit

"Patent troll" Blackbird was taken to task over a weaponized patent.

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Kurt Bauschardt

US judges have dismissed a case against Cloudflare brought forward by Blackbird over what may be considered nothing more than a weaponized patent.

On Tuesday, cloud services provider Cloudflare revealed that the United States District Court for the Northern District of California has dismissed Blackbird's case against Cloudflare.

Blackbird Technologies says the company offers "a unique opportunity for individual inventors and small companies to realize the value of their patents" which "litigate at reduced costs and achieve results that equal or exceed what a law firm would recover."

The company sued Cloudflare in March 2017 for alleged infringing US Patent 6453335, which is described as "apparatus and program product for providing an Internet third-party data channel" and the "incorporation of third-party data into existing Internet client/server connections in a convenient and flexible way."

This vague patent attempts to claim the intellectual property rights of any system which monitors preexisting data streams connected to a server, a concept which could be applied to limitless services and systems in use today.

Blackbird attempted to earn revenue through the case with Cloudflare for a settlement outside of court.

However, Cloudflare fought back.

"We at Cloudflare are not fans of the behavior of patent trolls," the company said. "They prey upon innovative companies using overly-broad patents in an attempt to bleed settlements out of their targets."

Cloudflare filed a preliminary injunction in response to Blackbird's suit, arguing that the patent was far too abstract to have been lawfully granted in the first place.

In a blog post, Cloudflare said that the US court dismissed the case after agreeing with the company that the ambiguous patent was not valid.

Judge Vince Chhabria said that "[a]bstract ideas are not patentable" and therefore are not permissible by law.

If they were, courts worldwide would have no time for any other matters beyond patent disputes.

"The claims make clear the processing device used to monitor and modify data can be nearly anything and can be placed nearly anywhere, so long as the processing device is not the server that originates the data stream," Chhabria noted within the ruling. "In other words, the patent attempts to monopolize the abstract idea of monitoring a preexisting data stream between a server and a client for a specific condition and modifying that stream when that condition is present."

As the patent is not admissible by law, Blackbird cannot use this particular patent to sue any other company in the future.

See also: Microsoft patent hints at dual-screen foldable tablet

"Blackbird acquired an absurdly broad patent from an inventor that had apparently never attempted to turn that patent into a business that made products, hired people, or paid taxes," Cloudflare said. "Blackbird still has a right to appeal the court's order, and we'll be ready to respond in case they do."

Blackbird also filed a very similar claim against Fastly, an edge computing platform provider, for apparently infringing the same patent. However, in this case, Blackbird appears to have settled with Fastly outside of court.

ZDNet has reached out to Blackbird and will update if we hear back.

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