from the slow-down-there-fellas dept
Last year, we wrote about the somewhat random confluence of events that brought together two ex-file sharing industry execs (one associated with Kazaa and the other with Morpheus) and made them extreme patent trolls, suing a ton of internet companies under the ridiculous brand “PersonalWeb.” Well, PersonalWeb is adding to its ridiculous legacy by suing Rackspace as well, though as the complaint makes clear (pdf), PersonalWeb seems mighty confused about what it’s suing over.
That’s because it seems to be claiming that Rackspace is responsible for… GitHub. Now, it’s true that Rackspace, one of the most popular hosting companies out there, does provide hosting services to GitHub, but that doesn’t mean that Rackspace is Github — though you couldn’t tell that from the filing. Now, it isn’t just filing about GitHub, but also Rackspace Cloud Servers, which obviously are a Rackspace product. The patents being sued over are basically the same batch as we wrote about last year, but with one addition (added at the top — it wasn’t in last year’s post because… it was only granted this year):
- 8,099,420: Accessing data in a data processing system
- 8,001,096: Computer file system using content‐dependent file identifiers
- 7,949,662: De‐duplication of data in a data processing system
- 7,945,544: Similarity‐based access control of data in a data processing system
- 7,945,539: Distributing and accessing data in a data processing system
- 7,802,310: Controlling access to data in a data processing system
- 6,928,442: Enforcement and policing of licensed content using content‐based identifiers
- 6,415,280: Identifying and requesting data in network using identifiers which are based on contents of data
- 5,978,791: Data processing system using substantially unique identifiers to identify data items, whereby identical data items have the same identifiers
If those seem incredibly vague and broad to you, you’re not alone. M-CAM, a company which specializes in analyzing the quality of patents, found PersonalWeb’s patents so egregious that it proposed an award named after the examiner on a bunch of them, Khanh B. Pham:
After reviewing PersonalWeb’s patents, we propose that the USPTO indeed mold a “Pham” award to best commemorate the ultimate, the outrageous, the most horrifically unacceptable patent examination performance of the current patent system.
To be fair, it seems like Pham has plenty of company.
There is also the oddity of Level 3 being a plaintiff on the case, though it sounds like it’s just along for the ride as a silent partner:
Level 3 has joined in this Complaint pursuant to its contractual obligations under the Agreement, at the request of PersonalWeb.
Basically, it sounds like part of the licensing deal in which PersonalWeb ended up with some Level 3 patents, and Level 3 gets a cut of some of the profits.
For its part, Rackspace has rightfully spoken out about the ridiculousness of this. What’s good to see is that they don’t just focus on the insanity of this particular case (though that is discussed), but the patent system as a whole:
In fact, GitHub is a perfect example of a company that is built to foster and enhance innovation. The GitHub repository service for software development projects has achieved legendary status among open source developers all over the world. GitHub has over 2.1 million users hosting over 3.7 million repositories. They are a paragon of innovation. Yet PersonalWeb has the audacity to file a lawsuit which alleges that “Rackspace Cloud Servers and GitHub Code Hosting Service” infringe some obscure patent from 1999 that has nothing to do with Rackspace and GitHub. Who is truly innovating here, PersonalWeb or Rackspace and GitHub? PersonalWeb is not the issue of course. They are just another patent troll attempting to take advantage of bad law. It is their nature. They look for opportunity, and patent litigation can be very profitable. The real problem is the law. According to a recent study by James Bessen and Michael Meurer of the Boston University School of Law, titled “The Direct Costs from NPE Disputes,” patent trolls cost the American economy $29 billion in 2011. The authors found that patent troll litigation affected 5,842 defendants in 2011.
It’s good to see more companies speaking out and recognizing that this is a widespread problem that needs to be addressed, rather than a narrowly focused one on the margins.