Internet Security

Cloudflare beat a patent troll. What now?

In the summer of 2017, we wrote about a battle between Cloudflare, the San Francisco-based internet security and content delivery network, and two attorneys who’d previously litigated intellectual property cases on behalf of numerous tech giants. The attorneys had come together to form Blackbird Technologies, a Boston and Chicago-based firm that quickly amassed dozens of…


In the summer of 2017, we wrote about a battle between Cloudflare, the San Francisco-based internet security and content delivery network, and two attorneys who’d previously litigated intellectual property cases on behalf of numerous tech giants. The attorneys had come together to form Blackbird Technologies, a Boston and Chicago-based firm that quickly amassed dozens of patents, then began using them to file dozens of patent infringement lawsuits against companies, including Cloudflare.

The suit was typical in every way, except how Cloudflareresponded to it. Rather than quietly settle, as have some targets of Blackbird and other so-called patent trolls, Cloudflare decided to fight back in a very public way, blogging extensively, talking with news outlets like ours and, most crucially, turning to anyone and everyone who could help it locate prior art. The idea wasn’t merely to invalidate the patent that Blackbird was using to sue Cloudflare — but to invalidate all of Blackbird’s patents. Cloudlfare declared war.

To its credit, Cloudflare won, too. At least, the case against Cloudflare itself was eventually dismissed, and in a postmortem published yesterday, the company described in detail its game plan and many more specifics around its efforts to crowdsource prior art that might invalidate Blackbird’s patents.

It revealed, for example, that it had received 275 total unique submissions from 155 individuals on 49 separate patents, and multiple submissions on 26 patents. Roughly 40% of these related to the patent asserted against Cloudflare, but individuals also turned up prior art submissions that could help protect Nian

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