Score one for the good guys. Rackspace and Red Hat just defeated Uniloc, a notorious patent troll. This case never should have been filed. The patent never should have been issued. The ruling is historic because, apparently, it was the first time that a patent suit in the Eastern District of Texas has been dismissed prior to filing an answer in the case, on the grounds that the subject matter of the patent was found to be unpatentable. And was it ever unpatentable.
On Thursday March 14, 2013 the House Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet held an important hearing entitled “Abusive Patent Litigation: The Impact on American Innovation & Jobs, and Potential Solutions.” Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia summed up the patent troll problem perfectly in his prepared remarks:
On this blog, we have written a number of times about patent trolls, the patent system and our efforts to change it. Rackspace is increasingly the target of lawsuits filed on behalf of these patent trolls; suits that aim to disrupt our business and extract a tax on innovation. Patent litigation is the fastest-growing part of our operational expenses at Rackspace — faster than salaries, faster than R&D, faster than datacenter energy costs.
In a recent blog post, I issued a call to action to make patent trolls pay. It stemmed from a questionable patent infringement lawsuit filed against Rackspace by a patent troll – a plaintiff calling itself PersonalWeb Technologies – that claims Rackspace infringes on its patents with Rackspace Cloud Servers and by hosting the GitHub code repository (view the complaint here).
Rackspace has been subjected to yet another patent lawsuit by a patent troll looking for a settlement. In this case, the plaintiff is called PersonalWeb Technologies. This particular lawsuit is not much different than the others, except that it highlights why software patent litigation suppresses innovation, and why Congress and the courts need to improve the system. If it wasn’t such a serious issue we might want to laugh at the irony of it all.