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Mathematics Cannot Be Patented. Case Dismissed.


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.

Red Hat indemnified Rackspace in the case. This is something that Red Hat does well, and kudos to them. They stand up for their customers and defend these Linux suits. The lawyers who defended us deserve a ton of credit. Bill Lee and Cynthia Vreeland of Wilmer Hale were creative and persuasive, and their strategy to bring the early motion to dismiss was brilliant.

The patent at issue is a joke. Uniloc alleged that a floating point numerical calculation by the Linux operating system violated U.S. Patent 5,892,697 – an absurd assertion. This is the sort of low quality patent that never should have been granted in the first place and which patent trolls buy up by the bushel full, hoping for fast and cheap settlements. This time, with Red Hat’s strong backing, we chose to fight.

The outcome was just what we had in mind. Chief Judge Leonard Davis found that the subject matter of the software patent was unpatentable under Supreme Court case law and, ruling from the bench, granted our motion for an early dismissal. The written order, which was released yesterday, is excellent and well-reasoned. It’s refreshing to see that the judiciary recognizes that many of the fundamental operations of a computer are pure mathematics and are not patentable subject matter. We expect, and hope, that many more of these spurious software patent lawsuits are dismissed on similar grounds.

It’s obvious to us that patent trolls like Uniloc are having a caustic affect on innovation. Patent trolls have become Rackspace’s most pressing legal issue. We have seen a 500 percent spike since 2010 in our legal spend combating patent trolls. Until patent laws are reformed, companies of all sizes could – and likely will – find themselves in the crosshairs of a greedy patent troll looking for a quick cash-grab. No company is immune.

That is why patent reform should be a top priority for Congress. The rapid dismissal of lawsuits filed by patent trolls coupled with legislation to make it difficult for them succeed in their litigious shakedowns would be a massive step in the right direction.

At Rackspace, we will continue to fight the battle against patent trolls on several fronts – in the courts, in the news and by working with members of Congress. We encourage our customers, partners, open source collaborators and friends to support the continuing war against innovation stifling lawsuits. Join us.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Alan Schoenbaum.

Alan Schoenbaum is Special Counsel for Rackspace.

Prior to joining Rackspace in 2005, he was a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP in San Antonio, Texas. Alan has more than 25 years of experience in corporate and securities law and mergers and acquisitions. Throughout his legal career he has represented public and private growth companies, venture capital funds and their portfolio companies. Alan received his B.A. in English and his law degree from the University of Texas at Austin.

  • Tweeks

    Nice job Alan!
    Glad you’re on our* side!

    * – our being innovative open source. 😉


  • zzz

    The world would be a much better place if software patents were universally treated in the same manner.

  • Mike ashton

    Excellent work! Please keep it up and be public about it, so that these bottom feeding trolls are stopped when they realize they are loosing money at their game.

  • Steph Kennedy

    “Patent trolls have become Rackspace’s most pressing legal issue. We have seen a 500 percent spike since 2010 in our legal spend combating patent trolls. ”

    That 500% spike represents dollars that could have, and should have, gone to new product development and represents a clear link that the trolls are having a negative affect on businesses.

    “At Rackspace, we will continue to fight the battle against patent trolls on several fronts – in the courts, in the news and by working with members of Congress.”

    I’d add “collaboration with other troll targets” as another front, as well as “information gathering”. What can we find out about these trolls, and subsequently expose, to make them stop?

    The best part about this is it’s in the Republic of East Texas. Getting a win there at such an early stage is saying something, lol! And I think another point worth making is that ya’ll won this *without* the aid of new legislation. You beat them fair and square using existing laws. Giddyup!

    Just sayin’,


  • Brian Garvey

    Well done Alan, it good to see that Red Hat protection worked well in this case and that Rackspace was prepared to fight this. Did the Judge award costs to act as a future deterrent….

  • Beth Sherfy

    Congratulations, Alan! Great leadership on your part. This is absolutely wonderful news for Rackspace and for all patent troll targets. Kudos to Mary Stich and all of the RackLaw Team. So happy for all of you! I’m wearing my favorite RackLaw t-shirt in proud solidarity with the winningist legal team ever!

  • Michael A

    You guys are my heros. Seriously, I don’t mean that in a teeheehee sort of way. I mean, companies like you are the only chance that America has to turn around the sad state of corruption and waste that has nearly ravaged the previous decade of innovation. I’m a Python SaaS developer, and the first thing that comes to my mind each time I come up with a new idea? ‘Hmmm, I don’t see anyone doing this same thing, but I wonder how many thousands of patents there are on each of its components… sad :(

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