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Rackspace Goes On Rampage Against Patent Trolls 132

Posted by timothy
from the there-should-be-blood dept.
girlmad writes "Rackspace has come out fighting against one of the U.S.'s most notorious patent trolls, Parallel Iron. The cloud services firm said it's totally fed up with trolls of all kinds, which have caused a 500 percent rise in its legal bills. Rackspace was last week named among 12 firms accused of infringing Parallel Iron's Hadoop Distributed File System patents. Rackspace is now counter-suing the troll, as the firm said it has a deal in place with Parallel Iron after signing a previous patent settlement with them."
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Rackspace Goes On Rampage Against Patent Trolls

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 06, 2013 @09:50PM (#43382219)
    The laws must be changed.
    • by crashumbc (1221174) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:01PM (#43382281)

      "The only ones who win are the lawyers."

      -The laws must be changed.

      Which is exactly why the laws won't be changed.

      • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:23PM (#43382373)
        Which is exactly how the laws got written in the first place.
        • by jhoegl (638955) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:29PM (#43382385)
          That used to be the case, but you guys are forgetting this is the 21st century.
          Now lobbyists make the laws, and lobbyists are paid for by the winning side.
          • by Dunbal (464142) * on Saturday April 06, 2013 @11:38PM (#43382573)
            The winning side becomes the losing side in a flash. I'll tell you right now which side I want to be on when the torches and pitchforks get going, and it's not the "winning" side. Wealth too is transitory. It's often gone within two generations, and usually less.
            • Exactly how many non-geeks are actually knowledgeable about patent trolls? Two? Three?

              Talk to most random people about patents, and they think: "lotto" -- invent something cool and retire. Try to explain what is wrong with the system and their eyes glaze over. The notion that patent reform will come from the masses and that they will demand change is .... wishful thinking? ludicrous? Crazy? Pick any word that's the antonym of "possible."

              • by Anonymous Coward

                And of most of the 'geeks' around who wouldnt be first to line up and patent something if they actually came up with something cool? Ah...

                If you can up with say a revolutionary image creation system or compression system. You would patent the hell out of it.

                They only ones screaming for reform are those being screwed over by the existing system. Hell even MS has been screwed over yet their push for reform is basically crickets in the room.

                • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @01:16AM (#43382793) Homepage Journal

                  "who wouldnt be first to line up and patent something if they actually came up with something cool?"

                  I presume that you're familiar with the name "Linus Torvalds"? Copyleft authors are legion and myriad. It's not unusual to see a license that says something to the effect, "Hey, enjoy my cool stuff, for free! If you really like it, visit my homepage to leave compliments or to make a donation!"

                • by Anonymous Coward

                  Many of us are employed as software developers. We invent something comparable to stupid software patents like "slide to unlock" in every project and we'd rather keep that level of grunt work non-patentable like it is supposed to be.

                • by Anonymous Coward

                  And of most of the 'geeks' around who wouldnt be first to line up and patent something if they actually came up with something cool? Ah...

                  If you can up with say a revolutionary image creation system or compression system. You would patent the hell out of it.

                  They only ones screaming for reform are those being screwed over by the existing system. Hell even MS has been screwed over yet their push for reform is basically crickets in the room.

                  I wouldn't. I came up with a synthesis for a new compound. It would

              • by nametaken (610866)

                You might be right. I hope not though.

                I mean, I couldn't explain net neutrality to my parents or friends and have them get it, but I could say, "do you want Comcast charging you $20 a month just to use the Netflix you already pay for over the internet connection you already pay for?" They sure as hell understand that argument. And the blackouts did get peoples' attention.

                In this case, much as it was with net neutrality, businesses look at patent trolls as a miserable pain in the ass, keeping everyone from d

              • by sjames (1099)

                Just start with "If you ever do invent something you could retire on, some troll will show up and take it away and the crooked court system will help them". Now you've got their attention.

            • Wealth too is transitory. It's often gone within two generations, and usually less.

              Newer wealth, perhaps. Recognisable faces such as Gates, Zuckerberg, etc.

              However, old money, often invested through hard-to-trace organizations, is likely a big factor as well.

          • by houghi (78078)

            Almost/ The lobbyist are paid by those who BECOME the winning side.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Any lawsuit that seeks to waste the courts time with frivolous lawsuits will result in the company being fined a minimum of 15% of previous years profits or up to 10 times the amount sought in the original lawsuit whichever is greater. Under certain conditions the legal time may also be subject to review by the state bar. Should the result of a frivolous lawsuit result in the defendant company incurring substantial losses, of at least a 50% decline or even bankruptcy, additional fines and penalties may be l
      • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:18PM (#43382355) Journal

        Fines and jail time won't work. Asset forfeiture on the other hand could put a dent in this business. Just apply the RICO statutes. After all, it is racketeering.

        • Is a fine not a forfeiture of assets? I don't mean to be - uhhh - pedantic is the right term? But, the idea of a fine is to discourage certain conduct. I think that what you are really suggesting is, fines are levied against trolls far to infrequently, and the fines are much to small.

          Maybe a single fine shouldn't be ruinous to any person or to any company - but trolls should be racking up these penalties every time they go into court. Cumulatively, these fines should be ruinous.

      • by Shavano (2541114)
        That would hardly be a problem for patent trolls. They'd form a new corporation for each case they intend to bring and sell the patent to that company.
        • by Holi (250190)

          Then an obvious solution is, if you fail when you attack someone for a patent violation, you lose the patent. That would stop trolling instantly.

          • by Shavano (2541114)
            That's not justice because there ARE such things as original inventions. If I have a patent and you make something that's a in the gray area where it's a judgement call whether my patent was infringed, the jury should be able to find that the particular work was non-infringing without making it so people can now copy my work exactly.
    • People with money will always vote laws for them.

    • by symbolset (646467) *
      It turns out we need only one law, and it's really really simple. Fifteen words will do.
  • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Saturday April 06, 2013 @09:52PM (#43382225)

    Rackspace is now counter-suing the troll, as the firm said it has a deal in place with Parallel Iron after signing a previous patent settlement with them.

    So what they are REALLY saying is...

    Honey, we left the cash on the dresser, and now you want more?

    • by vencs (1937504)
      And what about the good ol' "Don't feed the troll"?
    • Re:Getting "tough"? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Dachannien (617929) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:14PM (#43382339)

      Actually, this is just a really really horrible summary.

      What really happened: IP Nav had approached Rackspace, claiming that Rackspace was infringing some patents of an unnamed client of theirs. IP Nav told Rackspace that they would disclose neither the identity of their client nor the patents in question unless Rackspace signed an agreement not to sue without giving 30 days written notice that their side was terminating licensing negotiations. As it turns out, the agreement went both ways, with IP Nav agreeing to the same 30 day written notice provision. (Peculiarities of patent law are such that if a patentee approaches you about your potential infringement, you can sue them for a declaratory judgment of noninfringement in a federal district court of your choosing; IP Nav was trying to avoid this so they could choose the venue.)

      Rackspace agreed to those terms, and found out the patents in question as well as the identity of the patent holder: Parallel Iron.

      After some time had passed, licensing talks weren't really going anywhere, so IP Nav/Parallel Iron filed suit against Rackspace and others in federal district court in Delaware.... without providing 30 days written notice to Rackspace. So Rackspace - indicating that since IP Nav/Parallel Iron breached the contract not to sue, Rackspace was no longer bound by the agreement - filed suit in Texas (where Rackspace is HQed) for a declaratory judgment of noninfringement as well as damages for the breach of contract.

      Ars has more details, including a link to Rackspace's complaint. [arstechnica.com]

      • by girlinatrainingbra (2738457) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:53PM (#43382467)
        Another war against Linux? Do I detect a whiff of Microsoft's scent in the air surrounding this?
        :>(
        Thanks for the link, and that page has even more informative links. It looks like Rackspace won a dismissal against Uniloc for a patent troll argument [arstechnica.com] asserting patents on simple mathematical operations: rounding a floating point number up or down before performing a mathematical operation on it, rather than performing the math operation and then performing the rounding afterwards. The judge's dismissed Uniloc's suit stating that "simple mathematical operations are not patentable". [slashdot.org]
        .
        That patent was PTO#5,892,697 [uspto.gov] and only the first claim was asserted for that lawsuit.
        .
        Interestingly, the way the lawsuit was filed shows that Rackspace was being sued for deploying Linux servers, and the servers were claimed to be infringing # 5,892,697 because they ran Linux. Doesn't this look like another wave of concerted lawsuits and patent trolling against Linux? I wonder who the concert-master is in this case, waving the baton and funding this crazy patent assertion of rounding numbers before an op being performed rather than after the op is performed? Is there a whiff of Microsoft in the air?
        • by Dunbal (464142) *
          Microsoft is (or should be) so busy saving its own skin it can't afford a war with anyone right now. Windows 8? Meh. Office 365? Meh. The Microsoft iPad thingie what was it called again? Yeah. Was it worth pissing off all the OEM's over? Ballmer just keeps shooting himself in the foot again and again and again. It's almost as if he wants Microsoft to fail.
        • IMHO, mathematics should not be patentable AT ALL and IN ANY FORM. However, what galls me particularly here is how this whole patent business appears being settled among a bunch of ignorant monkeys.

          In mathematics, the analysis of rounding operations is nontrivial, and in general making a choice about rounding before or after some other operation can sometimes be extremely clever. So while the judge made ultimately the right decision, his justification based on labelling the claims "simple mathematical ope

          • re: IMHO, mathematics should not be patentable AT ALL and IN ANY FORM.
            :>)
            My humble opinion is that you are completely correct. I agree with you 100% (as that is the maximum allowed by the laws of mathematics, though the laws of idiomacy allow for greater percentages). Also, numbers ought not be patentable. Say even a 2MB number which may or may not be prime, but whose binary representation just might happen to match a Linux elf executeable file for the Macintosh-G4-powerpc architecture that has a st
          • by ultranova (717540)

            IMHO, mathematics should not be patentable AT ALL and IN ANY FORM.

            The problem with that is that everything can be seen as mathematics. The operation of any machine or process is really just evaluation of quantum mechanical wave equations. So mathematics IN ANY FORM includes physical reality itself.

            Business method patents would still be fine, though, due to the disconnect between economics and reality.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        All of this mumbo jumbo stinks of Dungeons & Dragons style legal tomfoolery.

        X casts silence.
        Y repels silence.
        Y casts fists of declaratory judgement for 50HP damage.
        Y casts fiery breach of contract.

        Next we'll find out the lawyers really are using 12 sided dice.

    • Re:Getting "tough"? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:18PM (#43382351)

      Bad summary. According to a post on the Rackspace blog, "we negotiated a mutual forbearance agreement that required either party to give 30 days’ notice before bringing suit." It isn't that they had agreed to pay the troll, it's that Rackspace was doing their best to get the details about the alleged infringement without waiving their right to bring a countersuit. Source: http://www.rackspace.com/blog/why-rackspace-sued-the-most-notorious-patent-troll-in-america/ [rackspace.com].

    • So what they are REALLY saying is...

      Honey, we left the cash on the dresser, and now you want more?

      This is more of a Barney the Dinosaur rampage than a Godzilla rampage.

      • by gd2shoe (747932)

        At least with Godzilla you can run screaming. You might even get away.

        Barney is everywhere. (thankfully, not as much as he once was...)

  • Imagine that (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 06, 2013 @09:52PM (#43382229)
    Patent trolls go after those who will settle. Let that be a lesson before paying off the next troll.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    You can't make a deal with a troll. They will always come back for more. It's just their nature to be greedy assholes who want everything for nothing.

    Dear Rackspace: fight the good fight.

  • by MrDoh! (71235) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @09:57PM (#43382269) Homepage Journal
    First patent troll to stick their nose into your business, license with the proviso that now you've signed with them, any later actions by anyone else are on their head, then just point patent troll at patent troll. If they're that sure they own the patent and it's strong enough, then surely they'll be ok to step up and indemnify you from there on against others? If not, then they're not as sure of their validity as they hope and you refuse. "Oh, hello there new troll, oh, you think you own that? Well, we just license it from them, they took all the money from us, and it's them you need to speak to" and you get to the greener grass on the other side of the bridge.
    • Re:Would this work? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by femtobyte (710429) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:13PM (#43382337)

      The problem is, when you've established that you're a profitable to trolls, they're much more likely to gang up to backstab you. I suspect the following wouldn't be entirely atypical:

      Troll 1) We have patent! Give us meellion dollar, or we sue!
      You) O.K.; here's $1M, but you've got to protect us against the next troll.
      Troll 2) We have patent! Give us meelion dollars, or we sue!
      Troll 1) Our board of directors take meellion dollar bonus for hard work! Now we bankrupt! Our directors find new job with Troll 2!
      Troll 1+2) Give us two meellion dollar! Or double sue!
      You) ... aww, shit.

      Since the troll companies are generally just empty shell corporations for investor psychopaths, they have no reason to stick around to fight each other (knowing that, by the time they ever won a case, the payout cash would have long ago vanished into some other Cayman Islands fund). A company with a solid revenue stream from actually making and selling products, that's proven itself a juicy target for Troll 1, is just asking to be bilked twice (by the same leeches under a different corporate name).

      • Atlas Smug (Score:4, Funny)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:45PM (#43382441) Homepage Journal

        investor psychopaths

        I'll have you know you're talking about the Job Creators! The Makers, not the Takers. Those people who want to build and sell stuff are just parasites.

        So that will be "Mr Investor Psychopath" from now on, if you don't mind, except "Mr Investor Psychopath" happens to be a trademark so until you get expressed written permission just keep your mouth shut and pay up, you leech.

  • WTF is the link to? (Score:5, Informative)

    by pspahn (1175617) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:01PM (#43382285)

    It might as well be spam in my inbox.

    Why not just link the damn blog post by Rackspace itself? link [rackspace.com]

  • What patents? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by supersat (639745) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:02PM (#43382289)

    As I understand it, HDFS is just a clone of Google's GFS. What IP could Parallel Iron possibly own?

    Oh wait...

    "IP Nav told us that they could not divulge the details of their infringement claims -- not even the patent numbers or the patent owner -- unless we entered into a 'forbearance agreement' -- basically, an agreement that we would not sue them."

    So they probably have nothing. How is this legal?!

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by dbIII (701233)
      I'm told that in Australia that would be "demanding money with menaces", which is why the SCO scam never collected a dollar in Australia despite some people ringing up and offering to pay in the hope of doing a bit of entrapment. Where you are you can thank the Libertarian mindset that makes it perfectly legal to make unspecified threats of legal action to frighten people into handing over money.
      • by Dunbal (464142) *
        Since when is that part of the "libertarian mindset"? Justify your answer.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dbIII (701233)
          The "government leave me alone" idea coupled with the "let the buyer beware" when somebody gets ripped off due to the government leaving things alone. Both are ideas pushed very strongly by people that call themselves Libertarians and ask others to vote for them under that banner.
          • by HiThere (15173)

            Yes, which is why I call myself a libertarian, I'll NEVER call myself a Libertarian.

            FWIW, even "libertarian" has lots of sticky places, but fewer than Democrat or Republican.

        • by EmagGeek (574360)

          It's part of the Libertarian mindset because "do whatever you want as long as it does not infringe upon the rights of others" is the libertarian mindset.

          Suing someone is not infringing their rights. It's accusing them of infringing upon yours.

          • In some countries, threatening to sue someone is a real threat: settle, or spend the rest of your life and life savings in court. In other countries, even Single Mum being sued by MegaCorp, inc will be happy to let the case go to court, or more likely MegaCorp will think twice before filing a meritless case in the first place. Those latter countries understand that legal threats are still threats and in some cases warrant rules or fixes to a broken judicial system to protect the public against them. But
            • by dbIII (701233)
              It does because it takes government expenditure to protect people against such things, and to libertarians that's a waste of the taxes they think they should never have to pay.
              • by HiThere (15173)

                You are confusing "libertarians" with "Libertarians". (Though I'll agree that some libertarians have the mind system you are objecting to.)

                • by dbIII (701233)
                  If you all want to bunch up under the same banner it's not my problem. I'm mostly picking on the ones that try to get elected with that label (and I did use the capital letter on the first post or two so just assume it's a typo with a small "l" later if it helps you blame a different faction).
                  • by HiThere (15173)

                    That's like claiming that "Democrats" are actually democrats, or that "Republicans" are in favor of a republic. (Actually, that last may be generally true, though it's hard to be sure, and depends on which centuries definition of republic you are using.)

                    • by dbIII (701233)
                      What really amuses me is the ones that are almost outright royalists (with the generationally established rich as the new royalty) that take the name of George Washington in vain. He'd probably line them up against the wall and shoot them for opposing just about everything the early USA stood for.
          • by dbIII (701233)
            The "does not infringe upon the rights of others" is often optional as rights are seen to be negotiable, or in other words what can be gotten away with. The Libertarian attitudes to the concept of a minimum wage or pollution controls are two prime examples where the rights of others are not seen to matter.
      • by Rockoon (1252108)
        The libertarian mindset does not include "intellectual property" you dumbass.
        • by dbIII (701233)
          It does most definitely include using the legal system as a blunt instrument against those that can't as easily afford lawyers though, which is really the point in question.
          Also you are correct, I do not think with my rear end. Mine is quite dumb so I normally just sit on it. I do applaud you for being able to think with yours but you may find you get better results with a different organ.
          • by Rockoon (1252108)

            It does most definitely include using the legal system as a blunt instrument against those that can't as easily afford lawyers though

            I get it.. you made one claim, and someone challenged it and you realized how stupid it was, so now you are making another claim.

            I challenge this one too, because its just as dumbass as the previous bullshit claim you made up.

    • So they probably have nothing. How is this legal?!

      Because America.
  • by L. J. Beauregard (111334) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:09PM (#43382317)

    you never get rid of the Dane. [poetryloverspage.com]

  • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:11PM (#43382325)

    Here's something a little "funny", Rackspace and Red Hat sued Uniloc over the idea of patenting mathematical algorithms, and Rackspace / Red Hat won. Guess where Uniloc parks their servers?

  • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:31PM (#43382389)
    I'm not going to be happy until we get a Slashdot headline that reads something like: "Rabid Ninja Mosad Assassin Zombie Horde Goes On Rampage Against Patent Trolls".
  • Interesting idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by istartedi (132515) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:36PM (#43382411) Journal

    It would be funny to settle with the troll and have something in the contract like, "agree not to sue me or my assigns" and then assign rights to all my software patents to everybody.

    IANAL and have no idea if such a thing would hold up in court; but it's no more ridiculous than most of what passes for law these days.

    • by gknoy (899301)

      Except, since so many trolls are shell corporations, they'd just dissolve themselves, and the next shell company would not be bound by the agreement, right?

  • by CuteSteveJobs (1343851) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:50PM (#43382455)
    The problem is with overinflated lawyers fees, court procedures which encourage paperwork which makes even more fees for lawyers and and court fees that the courts are so expensive you are looking at handing lawyers and courts two million up just to defend yourself from a patent troll. If cases were streamlined and it only cost $10K to defend a patent troll it would be far fairer, but lawyers and judges would be out of work. Have you ever heard of judges being laid off for lack of work? Judges whose communities depend on patent trolls for a steady stream of cases have a conflict of interest. If they came down hard on patent trolls and threw out meritless cases there would be boarded up lawyers offices all over town. Instead the judges say well geez better have a trial anyway just to be sure. It might get an answer but it wastes a fuckload of cash to get there. If the USPTO issued firm rulings we wouldn't need the courts. Instead the USPTO scratch their balls and say well I will just approve this shit because I can't understand it anyway and let the courts sort it out. The problem is as much the court system as it is the USPTO. They should streamline these but do you really think lawyers and judges will be putting themselves out of work?

    Patents are written in bullshit confusing language so courts argue what they mean. A software engineering looking at one of these wouldn't even recognize their own system in one of these documents. Lawyers write them to be broad and confusing so they can make money arguing it. The USPTO shouldn't be approving patents that are unreadable. And if a IT graduate can't read one of these and work out what they mean, they shouldn't be granted.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent_troll [wikipedia.org]
    http://news.cnet.com/8301-32973_3-57409792-296/how-much-is-that-patent-lawsuit-going-to-cost-you/ [cnet.com]
    http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2013/03/guest-editorial-throwing-trolls-off-the-bridge.html [patentlyo.com]
  • ... debt collectors look like angels.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ......a crooked corporation that wanted to pad expenses in order to reduce tax burden could just form shell corporation that holds a cheapo patent, and then claim infrigement to the main crooked corp. Then, the crooked corp "pays" that shell, launders the money for other purposes, and claims the "damages" on its loss statement, writing it off for taxes.

    Hope you're listening, government and court system! This loophole of patent abuse can be used directly against you, so I wouldn't be so fast to condone i

    • by HiThere (15173)

      No, it can't be used against the government. The government has previously claimed patents that have been issued to others as not only it's own, but as it's personal secrets, so you, the inventor, are also not allowed to use them. Then it's hired someone else to use them in its name.

      Perhaps there are circumstances where patents can be used against the government, but not if it really cares. (OTOH, the patents I'm thinking of had to do with processing fissionable materials.)

  • Game theory (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 91degrees (207121) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @02:42AM (#43382949) Journal
    It surprises me that this hasn't become a policy before. Patent trolls exist because they know that the company will roll over if it's cheaper to comply than to fight.

    Problem is, that only works for a single stage game. What we have is a repeated stage game. The optimal strategy for the troll victim is to fight, and to do as much damage to the troll as possible. This increases the cost of operation for the troll, and makes the victim a lot less lucrative a target for future lawsuits.
  • "as the firm said it has a deal in place with Parallel Iron after signing a previous patent settlement with them."

    If you pay the Danegeld you will never be rid of the Dane.

  • Say what? Okay, so I'm late to this dance.

    I just started looking into Hadoop, but from what I've read, I thought that the HDFS was open source. It certainly looks that way when I perused Apache Hadoop yesterday.

    What did I miss?

    • by russotto (537200)

      I just started looking into Hadoop, but from what I've read, I thought that the HDFS was open source. It certainly looks that way when I perused Apache Hadoop yesterday.

      What did I miss?

      Only a decade or two of rampant "intellectual property" abuse, and impotent raging about it on Slashdot.

      Everything's patented, usually several times over. It doesn't matter if it's open source; open source only provides you with rights that the original author had the authority to license; a third-party patent doesn't fit in

      • Everything's patented...

        This is one of the reasons I think the next 10-15 years could get interesting. There was a story a couple years back about how a company had failed an appeal against a troll that had a patent which broadly covered distributing digital music. IIRC, the patent was going to expire in 2017. There are a lot of patents like this that have been filed in the 1995-2010 period and I think the more savvy small businesses will begin searching expired patents and making them work for their needs.

Let's organize this thing and take all the fun out of it.

Working...