Nearly four years ago, we wrote about a battle between Cloudflare, the San Francisco-based internet security and performance company, and Blackbird Technologies, a firm that quickly amassed dozens of patents, then began using them to file dozens of patent infringement lawsuits against companies, including Cloudflare.
The suit was typical in every way, except how Cloudflare responded to it. Unlike many targets of similar lawsuits that opt to settle, Cloudflare fought back, asking very publicly for help in locating prior art that would not only invalidate the broad patent that Blackbird was using to sue Cloudflare, but to invalidate all of Blackbird’s patents. The public answered the call, and two years and 275 unique submissions later, the case against Cloudflare was dismissed and Blackbird’s operations were diminished.
One might surmise that given the stink that Cloudflare raised, other patent trolls might choose an easier target. Yet last month, Cloudflare was sued yet again, this time by Sable Networks, a “company that doesn’t appear to have operated a real business in nearly ten years — relying on patents that don’t come close to the nature of our business or the services we provide,” as says Doug Kramer, general counsel of CloudFlare.
Unsurprisingly, Cloudflare isn’t going to take this newest action lying down. This morning, after revealing the lawsuit publicly, it invited the engineering community to again “turn the tables” on patent trolls by inviting them to participate in a crowdsourced effort to find evidence of prior art to invalidate the “ancient, 20-year-old patents” that Cloudlflare says that Sable is is “trying to stretch . . . lightyears beyond what they were meant to cover.”
Cloudflare is also offering a $100,000 bounty to be split among entrants who provide the most useful prior-art references that can be used in challenging the validity of all of Sable’s patents, not just those being asserted against Cloudflare.
The idea is to deal a big enough blow to Sable that not only is its case against Cloudflare hobbled but also future cases against other entities.
“We feel fortunate that we didn’t run into one of these cases…