Patent Troll Sues Facebook, Amazon, Oracle, Linkedin, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley & More For Using Certain File Systems

from the the-system-is-broken dept

Via Jeff Roberts at Gigaom, we learn of yet another patent trolling operation: Parallel Iron, which has sued a bunch of tech companies and banks because of the file systems they use. It filed a few lawsuits in April, most of which were refiled in June, and then it just filed a bunch of new ones as well. Some of the filings are more specific about the file system — such as in the Facebook and Amazon cases, where it specifically calls out the popular Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS). In the Oracle suit, it’s parallel Network File System (pNFS). For what it’s worth, EMC appears to be the only company sued who tried to first sue for declaratory judgment in a different venue, but it was still sued with all the others in Delaware on the same day that EMC filed its own suit in Massachusetts.

While most patent infringement lawsuit filings tend to be pretty matter of fact, this one goes immediately for the hyperbole stick, suggesting that the four inventors on these patents made some amazing breakthrough, and everyone else copied it:

In this technological age, we take for granted the ability to access tremendous amounts of data through our computers and the Internet, a process that seems effortless and unremarkable. But this apparent effortlessness is an illusion, made possible only by technological wizardry. The amount of information that is used by many companies has outstripped the storage capacity of individual memory devices. The information must be stored across hundreds or thousands of individual memory devices and machines. The ability to keep track of information as it is distributed across numerous devices and machines, while still allowing users to retrieve it seamlessly upon request, is a feat that was impossible until recently. It was made possible by the innovations of technological pioneers like Melvin James Bullen, Steven Louis Dodd, William Thomas Lynch, and David James Herbison.

Bullen, Dodd, Lynch and Herbison were, among others, members of a company dedicated to solving the difficult problems that limited the capacity of computer technology and the Internet, particularly problems concerning data storage. These engineers found innovative solutions for these problems and patented several technologies for data storage, including the ones at issue in this case. Many of the data-access feats we take for granted today are possible because of the data-storage inventions of Bullen, Dodd, Lynch and Herbison.

Considering the claims that these four individuals were brilliant “technological pioneers,” you would think that searches on their names would turn up story upon story about their accolades, presentations at tech events, celebrations in their honor, etc. But, of course, that’s not the case. All you seem to find are stories about these lawsuits, or information about their patenting activities. Maybe my search skills aren’t up to par, or maybe these four guys were not “technological pioneers,” but merely got some broad patents on the same basic solution that lots of folks skilled in the art were figuring out at the same time. The idea that such things wouldn’t exist but for Bullen, Dodd, Lynch and Herbison is pretty ridiculous.

In case you’re wondering, the patents in question are 7,197,662, 7,543,177 and 7,958,388, all of which are for “methods and systems for a storage system.” The core of these patents goes back to a 2002 original filing date on the ‘662 patent. Hadoop and pNFS both show up on the scene around 2003, so it’s about the same time. It certainly sounds like a bunch of folks who work with large amounts of data were all coming up with some obvious (to them) solutions. Two of them actually brought stuff to market. The others… well, they’re suing.

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Companies: amazon, citigroup, facebook, linkedin, morgan stanley, oracle, parallel iron

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Comments on “Patent Troll Sues Facebook, Amazon, Oracle, Linkedin, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley & More For Using Certain File Systems”

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ComputerAddict (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Don’t you know, Delaware is the new East Texas.

“… and more in Delaware (while not as famous as Eastern Texas for patent lawsuits, Delaware has been getting some attention as a “favorable” venue for patent trolls).”

Anonymous Coward says:

Maybe your search skills are up to par, and maybe these gentlement really have worked behind the scenes in this area of technology and known to their close colleagues as pioneers. I have met countless experts in various fields who remain(ed) generally anonymous, usually because they were working in a lab developing new solutions, breadboarding, and prototyping in lieu of publishing papers for publication in professional journals.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

US patents usually issue covering only one invention, whereas it is not at all unusual for patent applications to describe and claim more than one invention. When this circumstances arises a patent applicant is required to elect which of the inventions will be the subject of further prosecution under the application, and the rest are required to be filed as a single or multiple applications known as continuations. Because an applicant is limited to what is described in the original application, these continuation applications are essentially carbon copies of the original application, with the only difference in each being the claims portion of the applications.

For example, should an initial application be held to comprise 3 separate and distinct inventions, only one moves forward, and the other two in order to be considered must be filed as two separate applications. Importantly, these later filed applications do not enjoy a longer term. All of their terms are measured from the date that the original application was filed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Junk Patent Problem

The ‘662 patent is definitely junk. It describes RAID storage, which was described in another patent US 4,092,732 in 1978. Sorry Bullen, Dodd, Lynch and Herbison, you fellows are only 30 years late.

Junk patents will always be with us while the patent system has not been abolished.

Vidiot (profile) says:

Re: Junk Patent Problem

Junk? You need to re-read the excerpt, my good man. It was “impossible until only recently”… not just “wizardry”, but actual “technological wizardry” — the best kind! Clearly, you were confused by its “apparent effortlessness”; but thanks to this action, we learn that this is merely an “illusion”!
I recognize that prose style… Tom Swift’s tales of the future, I think…

ComputerAddict (profile) says:

Re: Re: More please

So we just need the patent office to approve my “Method or Apparatus for distributing a political statement to one or more people simultaneously through electronic means**”

**Electronic means includes but not limited to wireless transmission (broadcast/satellite), cable transmission, internet transmission, telephonic transmission, and/or the use of a non-mechanical typewriter.

Anonymous Coward says:

Well in this age intellectual property is yours till the moment you tell the world. After that what you think you own is now known by countless more and they will innovate from it and people will innovate from them innovations and so on.

Yeah we will see completely unique ideas but even if we think it’s 100 percent new the odds are it was based from something seen in life or whatever else.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I would like to add:

Any patent that doesn’t include a circuit diagram or engineering drawing of a real THING is invalid. Thus all software patents and just about all “system and method” patents are invalid.

You want to create a piece of hardware to handle a software problem? Fine, you can get a patent on that EXACT implementation of that solution. You want to claim that you “own” any software solution that answers problem X? Fuck you.

Reply to Anonymous says:

Re: Re:

You underestimate the skills of the patent office. They are professionals and they know how to grant or reject a patent. By the way, the title is not what is patented. This is elementary like a title of a book or a movie may have nothing to do with the story. So, looks like there are a number of misinformed people giving out free advice.

Anonymous Coward says:

One has to wonder when this will affect deployment of new solutions because they may be incumbered by old patents and leave behind some countries to become second in research and development.

Those patents are attacking the core of very intensive tasks needed for things like nuclear decay simulation, imagine if you can’t deploy the best most reliable solution because it is patent incumbered and others countries are deploying it, now that would be something wouldn’t?

Jewell/Quepea (profile) says:

When will it end?

I am just amazed how easy anyone can enter a courthouse and file a suite. I am frustrated that every piece of development is open for a challenge or debate. It is ridiculous that our nation is in disarray and this has opened a portal for the human to escape into the selfish ego for the claim of a penny. The only group that will get rich will be the attorney’s who handles the case. “Everything is backwards” spoken by the ForemostPoets.

staff says:

another biased article

?Patent troll?

Call it what you will…patent hoarder, patent troll, non-practicing entity, shell company, etc. It all means one thing: ?we?re using your invention and we?re not going to pay or stop?. This is just dissembling by large infringers and their paid puppets to kill any inventor support system. It is purely about legalizing theft. The fact is, many of the large multinationals who defame inventors in this way themselves make no products in the US or create any American jobs and it is their continued blatant theft which makes it impossible for the true creators to do so.

Prior to eBay v Mercexchange, small entities had a viable chance at commercializing their inventions. If the defendant was found guilty, an injunction was most always issued. Then the inventor small entity could enjoy the exclusive use of his invention in commercializing it. Unfortunately, injunctions are often no longer available to small entity inventors because of the Supreme Court decision so we have no fair chance to compete with much larger entities who are now free to use our inventions. Essentially, large infringers now have your gun and all the bullets. Worse yet, inability to commercialize means those same small entities will not be hiring new employees to roll out their products and services. And now some of those same parties who killed injunctions for small entities and thus blocked their chance at commercializing now complain that small entity inventors are not commercializing. They created the problem and now they want to blame small entities for it. What dissembling! If you don?t like this state of affairs (your unemployment is running out), tell your Congress member. Then maybe we can get some sense back in the patent system with injunctions fully enforceable on all infringers by all inventors, large and small.

Those wishing to help fight big business giveaways should contact us as below and join the fight as we are building a network of inventors and other stakeholders to lobby Congress to restore property rights for all patent owners -large and small.

For the truth about trolls, please see


Re: another biased article

> It is purely about legalizing theft.

You’re at least right about that part.

This is about allowing companies like Oracle to claim ownership of something that the rest of us can recreate. That is legalizing theft. It’s legalizing theft from ME.

The patent system was never supposed to be about giving a payday to “small inventors”. That’s just a fantasy to dupe people to shill for big corporations.

Patents are meant to encourage disclosure of useful trade secrets that would not otherwise be disclosed because they are too valuable. They’re not supposed to be for every bit of trivial nonsense that 5 rival companies or a group of undergraduates can replicate.


Re: What you pine for...

Upon further reflection, it occurs to me that you may not fully appreciate what you are advocating. Or perhaps you do. Either way, I think shills like you should be made to live with the kind of deprivation you would subject the rest of us to. You want to halt the pace of innovation?


Let’s see you do without the last 20 years of collaborative innovation. Let’s see how you like your computer from 1992 along with software and consumer electronics to match.

That’s the kind of “inventor’s Nirvana” we’re talking about here.

I wonder if Cello can handle this site?

Machin Shin (profile) says:

“The amount of information that is used by many companies has outstripped the storage capacity of individual memory devices. The information must be stored across hundreds or thousands of individual memory devices and machines. The ability to keep track of information as it is distributed across numerous devices and machines, while still allowing users to retrieve it seamlessly upon request, is a feat that was impossible until recently.”

That is really funny to me considering my father used to work for digital back in the 80s. I have many times sat and had conversations with him about different things and listened as he talked about all the things they used to do. Back then often things were still stored on tapes. He once described to me a system that had a computer handling IO requests from a server. It knew where each tape was and where the data would be on each tape. It could their for quickly que up request and spin the tapes to most efficiently grab the data needed.

Basically the kind of system these guys describe has been around almost as long as computers have. It might be on bigger scale, but there have always been storage limitation problems. This solution of storing across multiple drives is not new.

Make me anonymous says:

Circa 1994 (from WikiPedia)

The CXFS file system (Clustered XFS) is a proprietary shared disk file system designed by Silicon Graphics (SGI) specifically to be used in a Storage area network (SAN) environment.
A significant difference between CXFS and other distributed file systems is that data and metadata are managed separately from each other. CXFS provides direct access to data via the SAN for all hosts which will act as clients. This means that a client is able to access file data via the fiber connection to the SAN, rather than over an Ethernet network (as is the case in most other distributed file systems, like NFS). File metadata however, is managed via a metadata broker. The metadata communication is performed via TCP/IP and Ethernet.
Another difference is that file locks are managed by the metadata broker, rather than the individual host clients. This results in the elimination of a number of problems which typically plague distributed file systems.
Though CXFS supports having a heterogeneous environment (including Solaris, Linux, Mac OS X, AIX and Windows), either SGI’s IRIX Operating System or Linux is required to be installed on the host which acts as the metadata broker.

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