"In The Princess Bride
, the character of Vizzini famously says: "Ha ha, you
fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous of which
is 'never get involved in a land war in Asia,' but only slightly less
well-known is this: 'Never go in against a Sicilian when DEATH is on the
line.'" I don't know if it's surpassed either of those yet, but quickly moving
up the list would be "Never try to patent troll Cloudflare." Apparently, the
patent troll Sable Networks has just made exactly that blunder.
About a decade ago, the online retailer Newegg pioneered the strategy of
attacking back on patent trolls. The entire patent trolling business model is
based on the fact that it is almost always cheaper to settle a patent trolling
case than to fight it and win. A full patent trial will cost over a million
dollars easily, and sometimes multiples of that. But many patent trolls file a
ton of lawsuits, hoping to settle each for well less than what it takes to
fight in court. It's a true extortionate scam. Newegg, however, took the long
view, and recognized that if it refused to give in and refused to settle,
eventually the trolls would realize that it simply wasn't ever worth suing
Newegg. Newegg even made "Never Settle" t-shirts to advertise its strategy to
trolls. And, eventually, it worked. Though it did involve a few costly patent
trials, patent trolls mostly learned to steer clear of Newegg.
A few years ago, Cloudflare got its first patent troll lawsuit, and decided to
take Newegg's never settle strategy and kick it up a notch or three. Instead of
just saying it wouldn't settle, Cloudflare set out to completely destroy the
patent troll who sued it (an operation called Blackbird Technologies). In
response to the lawsuit, Cloudflare launched something called Project Jengo, in
which it sought to crowdsource prior art not just for the patent used against
Cloudflare, but every single patent
in Blackbird's portfolio -- and to hand
out cash awards to those who found such prior art. It also went after the
lawyers at Blackbird for violating legal ethics rules.
Cloudflare's campaign against Blackbird was a huge success. The company easily
won in court and Blackbird became a shell of its former self. Prior art was
discovered on some of its patents, the firm filed way fewer troll lawsuits, and
it appeared that its staff had dwindled.
Patent troll Sable Networks perhaps should have researched all of this before
suing Cloudflare over a sketchy patent that Cloudflare doesn't infringe on.
However, Sable Networks chose poorly."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics