Cloudflare Gets An Easy, Quick And Complete Win Over Patent Troll
from the good-news dept
Last year, we wrote about how a relatively new patent trolling operation had pretty clearly picked the wrong target in suing internet infrastructure provider Cloudflare with a sketchy patent (US Patent 6,453,335 on “providing an internet third party data channel.”) Cloudflare decided not only to fight the case, but to fight all of Blackbird’s patents, crowdsourcing and funding searches into prior art on any patent held by Blackbird Technologies, and arguing that the company was engaging in questionable legal practices — acting both as a patent holding company and a law firm, while sometimes pretending not to be a law firm (despite employing mostly lawyers) to avoid some serious ethics questions.
On Monday, Cloudflare received a fairly complete victory, with the judge easily dismissing the case and pointing out that the ‘335 patent was clearly invalid:
Abstract ideas are not patentable. The ‘335 patent is directed to the abstract idea of monitoring a data stream and modifying that data when a specific condition is identified…. The limitations in representative claims 1 and 18 “recite generic computer, network and Internet components, none of which is inventive by itself.” … Both claims describe a “processing device” that monitors a preexisting data stream between a server and a client for a specific condition and modifies that stream when that condition is present. But the patent makes clear the processing device can be generic hardware, such as a filter, router, or proxy, or generic software.
Dependent claims 8 and 24 identify a specific condition for the processing device to monitor: a data transmission rate below a set threshold. Identifying a specific condition narrows the scope of these claims. But this additional limitation is not inventive; it is simply a conventional application of the broader idea…. A patent that uses generic components can contain an inventive concept if those generic pieces are arranged in a “non-conventional and non-generic” way…. But the ‘335 patent does not attempt to patent a discrete and non-conventional means of monitoring and modifying a data stream. In fact, the claims make clear the processing device used to monitor and modify data can be nearly anything and can be placed nearly anywhere, so long as the processing device is not the server that originates the data stream. In other words, the patent attempts to monopolize the abstract idea of monitoring a preexisting data stream between a server and a client for a specific condition and modifying that stream when that condition is present.
Patent cases — even ones that should be easy — are pretty famous for forcing the defendant to go through a long and expensive process to conclude. Normally there are extensive back and forth and filings and hearings between the parties as the court determines just what the patents cover and what the defendants are alleged to have done. Here, however, Cloudflare made an early motion to dismiss based on the claim that the patent itself is clearly invalid under the Supreme Court’s Alice ruling that abstract ideas are not patentable. The court found this so persuasive that it tossed the case and the patent at this early stage (and did so in just two quick pages).
Blackbird may appeal, but it’s difficult to see any appeal getting very far either. And, given how Cloudflare is still asking for prior art on all of Blackbird’s other patents, the company may be interested in getting as far away as possible from Cloudflare as quickly as possible. But, then again, no one said that the people who run patent trolling operations are very smart.
Either way, kudos to Cloudflare for hitting back hard and getting an early victory against patent troll Blackbird.