Rackspace targets patent troll to stop the lawsuits

Cloud provider Rackspace is suing what it sees as one of the biggest patent trolls in the United States in a move to stop the organisation from launching more lawsuits.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

A shell company that has launched lawsuits against many of the big tech companies, including Amazon, Oracle, and Facebook for using the open source Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS), has itself now been sued by cloud provider Rackspace in a bid to stop the lawsuits.

Delaware-based shell company Parallel Iron has launched around 23 suits since June last year over the use of HDFS. The company owns the patents registered to four men, which it claims was responsible for inventing HDFS.

Rackspace's senior vice president for general counsel and secretary Alan Schoenbaum said in a blog post today that Parallel Iron had sued Rackspace and 11 others last week, alleging infringement for the use of HDFS.

Schoenbaum said that this was the second time that the Parallel Iron had dealt with Rackspace, attempting back in 2010 to accuse Rackspace of patent infringement, and to have the company enter a forbearance agreement before saying what patents were being infringed on. This would have prevented Rackspace from suing back to seek to have the patents invalidated.

Rackspace arranged an agreement where both Rackspace and Parallel Iron would not sue one another without providing written notice beforehand, but Rackspace alleges that Parallel Iron sued without providing notice.

Rackspace has taken Parallel Iron and its agent IP Nav to court in San Antonio, Texas; firstly seeking to declare that the company doesn't violate any of the three patents, and secondly, to accuse Parallel Iron of violating the agreement and force the company to pay damages.

"Patent trolls like IP Nav are a serious threat to business and to innovation. Patent trolls brazenly use questionable tactics to force settlements from legitimate businesses that are merely using computers and software as they are intended," Schoenbaum said. "These defendants, including most of America's most innovative companies, are not copying patents or stealing from the patent holders. They often have no knowledge of these patents until they are served with a lawsuit. This is unjust."

Schoenbaum said that since 2010, the company has seen a 500 percent jump in its legal costs defending itself against patent trolls.

"Our goal with this lawsuit is to highlight the tactics that IP Nav uses to divert hard-earned profits and precious capital from American businesses. This time, the patent troll should pay us."

The company last week scored a victory with Red Hat, beating Uniloc, which had alleged that the processing of floating point numbers by Linux had violated one of its patents. The court ruled that the US Supreme Court case law prohibits the patenting of mathematical algorithms.

In 2011, the show This American Life examined a patent for backing up file over a wide area computer network, invented by one man, whose patent was passed on through several shell companies that file patent lawsuits, including one against Rackspace. In seeking out one of the companies that held the patent, Oasis Research, the show found that the company's office was one of many empty offices based in Marshall, Texas, with no employees working there.

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