Sable Networks, a “patent troll,” sued Cloudflare, and is rewarding anybody who can uncover proof of earlier artwork on Sable Networks’ patents with a $100,000 payout. The Cloudflare Weblog’s Doug Kramer

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sable networks 100k sable networkskramer the, Sable Networks, a agency that does not appear to have performed a reliable enterprise in nearly ten years, filed a lawsuit in opposition to Cloudflare on March 15 citing patents that don’t have anything to do with the character of our firm or the providers we provide. We’ve got now encountered a patent troll lawsuit twice.

As common readers of this weblog (or readers of tech publications like ZDNet and TechCrunch) will recall, Cloudflare took a tricky stance in opposition to patent troll Blackbird Applied sciences in 2017 and made it clear that we would not simply associate with a nuisance settlement as a part of what we thought was an unfair, unjust, and ineffective system that stifled innovation and threatened rising firms.You may watch John Oliver’s or Silicon Valley’s scathing critiques of patent trolling in case you do not wish to learn all of our earlier weblog posts on the topic.

We promised to reply in opposition to patent trolls in a method that will subvert the traditional incentive system. We established Undertaking Jengo, a crowdsourcing initiative to unearth proof of earlier artwork to invalidate all of Blackbird’s patents, not simply the one asserted in opposition to Cloudflare, along with vigorously defending the case in courtroom. It was an enormous success since we gained the authorized battle, invalidated one of many patents held by the patent troll, and revealed prior artwork for 31 of Blackbird’s patents, which anybody may use to both contest the validity of these patents or to extra simply counteract their overbroad assertion.Most crucially, Blackbird Applied sciences decreased its staff and filed quite a bit fewer lawsuits after changing into some of the lively patent trolls within the US.

We’ll carry it out as soon as extra. You are wanted, too.


Turning the Tables: $100,000 in Prior Artwork Bounties

After we first began Undertaking Jengo, we had been making an attempt to handle some very problematic tendencies, and Sable Networks and its lawsuit match proper into that. Sable is making an attempt to increase 20-year-old, antiquated patents far past what they had been meant to guard. By increasing its claims to a enterprise like Cloudflare, it alerts that it could attempt to lengthen its rights to those that merely use routers, that’s, everybody who makes use of the Web. It has already sued over a dozen technological companies with quite a lot of totally different services in thoughts.

We’re supporting a brand new prior-art competitors to be able to discover references for all of Sable’s lively patents as a result of we consider that Sable’s choice to file these circumstances on such shaky authorized floor ought to carry some danger referring to the elemental deserves of its patents and its arguments. With a view to discover prior artwork—i.e., proof that the claimed know-how was in use or recognized when the patent software was filed—that can be utilized to invalidate Sable’s claims, we’re on the lookout for help from the Cloudflare neighborhood. The victors who’re profitable in finding such earlier artwork will cut up $100,000, thus will probably be worthwhile so that you can strive.

As soon as extra, we’re pledging $100,000 to be divided amongst those that submit what we deem to be essentially the most useful prior-art references that is perhaps used to dispute the validity of Sable’s patents. So long as Sable Networks, Inc. v. Cloudflare, Inc., No. 6:21-cv-00261-ADA (W.D. Tex. ), which implies till Sable absolutely drops the case (and with prejudice, that means Sable cannot file once more), there’s a settlement, or the case has been determined by the courtroom and all enchantment rights have been exhausted, you could submit prior-art references.

We are going to select winners from the submitted work and distribute a portion of the $100,000 as awards as soon as each three months for the following two years or till the lawsuit is resolved, whichever comes first. After the case is over, we’ll resolve on the ultimate winners from all the entries and distribute the leftover money. Moreover, we’ll make any pertinent submissions accessible to the general public.

The 4 Sable patents cited in opposition to us are listed under:


U.S. Patent No. Title Earliest Potential Precedence Date
6,954,431 Micro-flow administration Apr. 19, 2000
6,977,932 System and technique for community tunneling using micro-flow state data Jan. 16, 2002
7,012,919 Micro-flow label switching Apr. 19, 2000
8,243,593 Mechanism for figuring out and penalizing misbehaving flows in a community Dec. 22, 2004

And listed here are the six remaining Sable patents:

U.S. Patent No. Title Earliest Potential Precedence Date
6,854,117 Parallel community processor array Oct., 31, 2000
7,428,209 Community failure restoration mechanism June 12, 2001
7,630,358 Mechanism for implementing a number of logical routers inside a single bodily router July 9, 2001
8,085,775 Figuring out flows based mostly on conduct traits and making use of user-defined actions July 31, 2006
8,817,790 Figuring out flows based mostly on conduct traits and making use of user-defined actions July 31, 2006
9,774,501 System and technique for making certain subscriber equity utilizing outlier detection Could 14, 2012


We anticipate that making prior artwork on all of Sable’s patents accessible will profit our case in addition to those that select to answer Sable’s patent trolling by giving them a bonus and reducing their prices. This technique could also be a profitable strategy to reduce the menace posed by Blackbird’s patents, as seen by the dramatic drop in staff and filings we noticed after disclosing prior artwork on these patents.
On 49 of the Blackbird patents, we beforehand acquired 275 submissions from 155 totally different people. 18 members acquired compensation from us ultimately.

We had been inspired by the variety of Cloudflare neighborhood members who not solely contributed to this work but in addition confirmed nice enthusiasm and gratitude for the prospect to be concerned:

I have been dissatisfied and incensed by plenty of patent circumstances over time the place I consider that so-called “patent trolls” have misused the patent system to hinder innovation and profit from litigation. I appreciated what Cloudflare has performed with Common SSL earlier than, particularly with Jengo. I used to be desperate to try to help when the prospect to maybe have an effect on a real patent troll case got here.
Safety Engineer Adam

I’ve by no means gained something in my life, so I am pretty ecstatic. And to take action to be able to defeat malicious patent trolls? Unquestionably, in the present day is one in every of my favorite days ever. I stuffed out the shape as a result of software program patents are ineffective and clearly created to extort cash from profitable entrepreneurs for flimsy and clear claims. Moreover, I used to be homeless on the time I turned within the project and spent the whole day within the library.
San Francisco resident Garrett


Revival of Undertaking Jengo

It is price taking a deeper take a look at this case and the underlying points it displays to be able to perceive why we’re requesting your help in combating again as soon as extra.


Cloudflare’s “case” in opposition to Sable Networks

The patents at query on this case had been first utilized by Caspian Networks, a enterprise that tried to market what it known as a “flow-based router” within the early 2000s. Initially often called Packetcom, Caspian debuted their flow-based router, often called Apeiro, to the general public in 2003. In line with a press report from that period, Apeiro routers functioned equally to traditional routers already in use, however with extra reminiscence and logic for managing packets from the identical “movement.”


Caspian closed its doorways in 2006 regardless of its efforts to advertise the benefits of its router.

The agency that’s suing Cloudflare at this level is Sable Networks. Even if it would not appear to be a lot of an entrance. So far as we are able to decide, Sable briefly continued Caspian’s work and made an effort to market the flow-based routing know-how. Sable tried to do the identical however was equally unsuccessful, and the latest exercise we may find was from 2011. Following an prolonged interval of seeming inaction, Sable’s consideration final yr moved to looking for to acquire cash by authorized motion by making broad use of patents filed on Caspian’s flow-based router know-how twenty years prior. So Sable became a patent troll.

Eight circumstances claiming violation of Sable’s router patents had been filed within the preliminary spherical of litigation by Sable, they usually had been swiftly settled. Though the defendants in these lawsuits, corresponding to Cisco and Juniper Networks, supply quite a lot of Web providers, all of them a minimum of produce and market networking {hardware}.

It is fascinating to notice that each one of these circumstances had been resolved proper earlier than Sable would have needed to take two actions that will have put its authorized arguments to the check: (1) reply to a USPTO administrative continuing questioning the validity of its patents; and (2) attend a district courtroom listening to the place the decide would have decided the correct interpretation and scope of the patent claims.Consequently, earlier than meaningfully litigating its claims or dealing with a binding courtroom or administrative ruling which may have addressed or seemingly undermined Sable’s overly-broad assertion of these patents, Sable filed cookie-cutter lawsuits in opposition to eight defendants, waited for the defendants to reply, after which settled the circumstances.

Shortly after reaching settlements within the first eight situations earlier this yr, Sable reversed course and instituted six new authorized actions in opposition to a contemporary group of Web companies, this time together with Cloudflare. Opposite to the sooner defendants talked about, Cloudflare just isn’t engaged within the manufacture or sale of routers or switches. Sable’s infringement declare is due to this fact not doubtful, and it has chosen a defendant who’s motivated to reply.

This case serves as a helpful instance of how patent trolls work. All 4 of the patents that Sable is claiming in opposition to Cloudflare had been submitted between 2000 and 2004, when dial-up Web entry was nonetheless extensively used, and they’re all based mostly on “flow-based routing” know-how from Caspian, which is totally unrelated to the know-how that Cloudflare makes use of in its items and providers.One of many patents Sable cites as an illustration is U.S. Patent No. 6,954,431, which is titled “Micro-Circulate Administration.” Nearly precisely 21 years in the past, on April 19, 2000, this patent was issued. The ‘431 patent describes a router that assigns a label to packets for a particular movement and forwards all the packets in that very same movement based mostly on the label, very similar to Caspian’s Apeiro routers from 2003:


It claims to show a “[n]ew switching know-how [that] depends upon state data for offering a beforehand unavailable diploma of high quality of service” — presumably, Caspian’s flow-based routing know-how featured in its 2003 Apeiro, which the market rejected over a decade in the past.

Sable is now making an attempt to stretch the patents method past what they had been ever meant to cowl. A lot of Sable’s infringement claims seem to increase to primary routing and switching performance recognized lengthy earlier than any alleged invention date. For the ’431 patent, Sable’s interpretation of the patent seems to stretch the scope so broadly as to cowl any sort of packet processing, probably even the “typical routers” from the 2000s that routed every packet independently.

Sable has proven that it intends to make use of its patents extensively by making this leap. Sable can now make accusations in opposition to any particular person or firm utilising a firewall or perhaps a router with only a quick step. In line with its rationale, everybody utilising a WiFi router at dwelling might be Sable’s goal. Moreover, Sable has already asserted that firewalls, together with firewall {hardware} and software program, are lined by its patents. As soon as extra, its absurdly vast interpretation places everybody making an attempt to defend their networks from outdoors risks at hazard, not simply large companies.

You have not been being attentive to the present state of patent litigation, the place small companies are being sued for utilizing copy machines, in case you consider that you just or your small enterprise is protected as a result of you have not actually performed something flawed and no courtroom would ever maintain you liable. The incentives for patent trolls will not alter until a few of us struggle again.


A flawed incentive system that’s nonetheless flawed

The proliferation of patent trolls like Sable is brought on by a misaligned incentive construction that’s fueled by the exorbitant prices of battling off even fictitious patent claims. The common litigation value for defending patent infringement claims introduced by a non-practicing entity by trial and enchantment was staggering $4,500,000 for large circumstances (i.e., circumstances with greater than $25 million at stake), in accordance with the 2019 Report of the Financial Survey by the American Mental Property Legislation Affiliation. The common value of the defence was $750,000, even in minor circumstances the place the stakes had been beneath $1 million.

Patent trolls see solely advantages from every further lawsuit they file since they’re conscious that almost all of defendants will accept a portion of their anticipated litigation bills lengthy earlier than infringement claims are heard in courtroom. Whatever the validity of their authorized arguments, their enterprise technique is to file as many circumstances as they will as a result of they’re assured that almost all of defendants would comply with a settlement earlier than the case is set on its deserves. Consequently, they take nebulous technical patents that had been issued up to now and apply them as liberally as doable to new applied sciences and new companies. Nearly all of these trolls are non-practicing entities that do not promote any of their very own items and simply exist to tax different companies.

After dropping for a number of years, the variety of patent lawsuits grew by round 12% in 2018 in comparison with 2019, and rising exercise by non-practicing firms within the buy of patents projected much more development within the variety of such circumstances sooner or later. A patent troll determined it was a good suggestion to file a lawsuit in opposition to an organization that makes COVID-19 assessments in the midst of a pandemic, in accordance with the Digital Frontier Basis, which additionally famous that “some patent house owners really noticed the rise of the COVID-19 well being emergency as a enterprise alternative.”In line with a current report, there was a 43.3% enhance in patent litigation in Q1 of 2021 in comparison with the identical interval a yr earlier, and non-practicing entities had their busiest Q1 since 2015, fueled by the litigation finance business, which is flush with capital. This pattern just isn’t displaying any indicators of slowing down.

We’ll say it once more: Cloudflare is a staunch advocate of the patent system. We will confidently handle our enterprise as a result of to the 160+ patents which have already been granted to us. We will promote and supply our providers globally, make enhancements to our present items, and create new ones. Nonetheless, patent trolls exist in an universe the place they will assert fictitious potential makes use of of their patents with out having to spend in hiring and paying personnel or determining and assembly market calls for. The purpose of Undertaking Jengo is to appropriate this unbalanced incentive construction by making the submitting of pointless patent litigation cost-prohibitive. Along with your help, we are able to as soon as extra convey the message that by submitting the wrong case, patent trolls run the danger of shedding not only one lawsuit however many extra.

We hope you’ve got had a very good night time’s sleep and are able to resume your seek for prior artwork.

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