Rackspace Files Lawsuit Against “Patent Troll” Parallel Iron

Rackspace has filed a lawsuit against Parallel Iron.  Parallel Iron is a shell company that is incorporated in Delaware, which is known for suing companies like Rackspace, Facebook, and LinkedIn by claiming that their installations of Hadoop infringe on three of their patents.  In a blog post, Rackspace said that Parallel Iron is “the most notorious patent troll in America.”  Hadoop derived from research papers by Sergey Brin and Larry Page while attending Stanford.

Google also owns many patents surrounding Hadoop, but they vowed not to use these patents against the open source platform and they called on others to set up “patent shields” around the technology as a way to protect the software from “trolls.”  Hadoop is an open source database platform that makes it possible for servers to crunch a large amount of data using hundreds or thousands of servers.

“There’s a been proliferation of these patent troll lawsuits, and it has reached epidemic proportions,” stated Rackspace general counsel Alan Schoenbaum tells Wired. “We’re all searching for ways to reduce it. We’d love to end it — but I don’t know if that’s possible.”

Parallel Iron filed over 23 lawsuits against companies that use the Hadoop File System (HDFS), which is a way to store data on the platfor.  Last week, Parallel Iron filed a lawsuit against Rackspace and 11 other companies.  Rackspace filed a countersuit and claims that Parallel Iron is tied to a company called IP Nav.  IP Nav approached Rackspace in December 2010 with claims of patent infringement.  IP Nav told Rackspace that they were operating on behalf of an unnamed patent holder and they would not reveal the patent holder unless Rackspace entered a “forbearance agreement” which would prevent Rackspace from suing over the issue.  Rackspace refused, but the companies entered an agreement that disallowed both of them from suing with a proper notice.

Rackspace said that because Parallel Iron and IP Nav are tied together, Parallel Iron broke the forbearance agreement in filing the lawsuit against Rackspace last week.  Rackspace is asking that the court awards damages for breach of contract and to provide a declaratory judgment that Rackspace does not infringe on Parallel Iron’s patents.

I am rooting for Rackspace to win in the case because I am in favor of innovation, not stifling it.

Disclosure: Rackspace powers Pulse2.com servers for a monthly fee.  We do not own any stock in Rackspace.

This article was written by Amit Chowdhry. You can follow me at @amitchowdhry or on Google+ at
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