Members of the Internet infrastructure community are uniquely aware of the destructive effects that patent trolls’ frivolous lawsuits have on our industry. These baseless lawsuits stifle innovation and squander valuable resources for those that they unfairly target. Rackspace and Red Hat were recently the targets of one such lawsuit. The case was dismissed, but further highlights the need for addressing patent trolls at the legislative level. I discuss this topic in a post on my company blog that I’ve shared below. As a Board member for the i2Coalition, I look forward to continuing to fight that battle in Congress with our fellow members and industry allies and invite you to join us in our efforts.
SVP & General Counsel
Score one for the good guys. Rackspace and Red Hat just defeated Uniloc, a notorious patent troll. This case never should have been filed. The patent never should have been issued. The ruling is historic because, apparently, it was the first time that a patent suit in the Eastern District of Texas has been dismissed prior to filing an answer in the case, on the grounds that the subject matter of the patent was found to be unpatentable. And was it ever unpatentable.
Red Hat indemnified Rackspace in the case. This is something that Red Hat does well, and kudos to them. They stand up for their customers and defend these Linux suits. The lawyers who defended us deserve a ton of credit. Bill Lee and Cynthia Vreeland of Wilmer Hale were creative and persuasive, and their strategy to bring the early motion to dismiss was brilliant.
The patent at issue is a joke. Uniloc alleged that a floating point numerical calculation by the Linux operating system violated U.S. Patent 5,892,697 – an absurd assertion. This is the sort of low quality patent that never should have been granted in the first place and which patent trolls buy up by the bushel full, hoping for fast and cheap settlements. This time, with Red Hat’s strong backing, we chose to fight.
The outcome was just what we had in mind. Chief Judge Leonard Davis found that the subject matter of the software patent was unpatentable under Supreme Court case law and, ruling from the bench, granted our motion for an early dismissal. The written order, which was released yesterday, is excellent and well-reasoned. It’s refreshing to see that the judiciary recognizes that many of the fundamental operations of a computer are pure mathematics and are not patentable subject matter. We expect, and hope, that many more of these spurious software patent lawsuits are dismissed on similar grounds.
It’s obvious to us that patent trolls like Uniloc are having a caustic affect on innovation. Patent trolls have become Rackspace’s most pressing legal issue. We have seen a 500 percent spike since 2010 in our legal spend combating patent trolls. Until patent laws are reformed, companies of all sizes could – and likely will – find themselves in the crosshairs of a greedy patent troll looking for a quick cash-grab. No company is immune.
That is why patent reform should be a top priority for Congress. The rapid dismissal of lawsuits filed by patent trolls coupled with legislation to make it difficult for them succeed in their litigious shakedowns would be a massive step in the right direction.
At Rackspace, we will continue to fight the battle against patent trolls on several fronts – in the courts, in the news and by working with members of Congress. We encourage our customers, partners, open source collaborators and friends to support the continuing war against innovation stifling lawsuits. Join us.