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On March 15th, Cloudflare was accused of being sued for patent fraud by an online troll known as Sable Networks, a company that doesn’t seem to have operated a legitimate business for more than 10 years. They rely on patents that aren’t even remotely similar to our business or the products we offer. This isn’t the first time we’ve been involved in a lawsuit brought by patent trolls.
As readers of this blog (or readers of tech publications like ZDNet or TechCrunch) will recall, Cloudflare took a wise approach in our first interaction with patent trolling, Blackbird Technologies, in 2017, making it clear that we would not accept the nuisance settlement in light of an unfair, unfair, and inefficient process that hampered innovation and threatened emerging companies.If you’re not interested in going through our entire collection of blog posts about the subject, then you can check out the harsh critiques of patent trolling made in the video below by John Oliver or the writers of Silicon Valley.
We pledged to fight back against patent trolls with a strategy that could turn the standard incentive system on its head. Along with vigorously defending the case in court and establishing Project Jengo (a crowdsourced effort to locate prior art), Blackbird is attempting to invalidate the validity of all of its patents, not just the one asserted against Cloudflare.We won the case and are in the process of invalidating some of the patent troll’s patents, as well as publishing prior knowledge on 31 of Blackbird’s patents, which anyone can use to challenge the patents or defend against broad assertions of those patents.Most importantly, Blackbird Technologies went from being one of the largest patent trolling firms in the United States to hiring fewer people and filing fewer cases.
We’ll do it again. We need your help.
Reversal of Fortune: A $100,000 Bounty for Prior Art
Sable Networks and its lawsuit are a perfect fit within the alarming trends we set out to combat the very first time we started Project Jengo. Sable is taking old patents, dated 20 years ago, and trying to extend those patents beyond the scope they were originally intended to be able to cover. It has sued over a dozen tech companies that target an array of products and services. Furthermore, a company similar to Cloudflare indicates that it may attempt to extend its claim to individuals who only use routers—specifically, those who use the Internet.
We believe that Sable’s decision to file these lawsuits on a shaky basis is related to the strengths of its patents as well as its arguments. Therefore, we’re launching a new prior-art contest that is seeking submissions from those who can find prior art for all of Sable’s patents in active use. We’re asking for assistance from Cloudflare’s Cloudflare community to determine “prior art,” i.e., the evidence that the technology was already used or was in use prior to the date that the application for patent was made, which could be used to invalidate the patents of Sable. We will give you a chance to win by offering $100,000 to be split among those who succeed in identifying prior art.
We will provide $100,000 that will be divided among participants who provide what we believe are the most relevant prior-art references that could be used to challenge claims to the legitimacy of patents issued by Sable. You are able to submit prior-art references for as long as Sable’s case is currently pending in our favour (Sable Networks, Inc. v. Cloudflare, Inc., No. 6:21-cv-00261-ADA (W.D. Tex. )), which means until Sable is able to withdraw the case in full (and with prejudice, which means Sable cannot file a new case later) or there’s a settlement or the case is settled by the court, and appeal rights have been exhausted.
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