Cloudflare doubles down on its troll-hunting crusade

Bounty for invalidating Blackbird Tech patents increases

Cloudflare has today stepped up its efforts to run patent litigator Blackbird Technologies into the ground.

The cloud network services provider says it will be doubling the amount of money it has pledged for prior art on Blackbird's patents and expanding the program to also lobby for anti-patent troll litigation.

The program, called "Project Jengo," was kicked off by Cloudflare earlier this month in response to a patent infringement complaint filing.

Cloudflare CEO (and self-described "recovering attorney") Matthew Prince says the structure of Blackbird – one that has the lawyers themselves owning the patents they litigate on – is uniquely threatening to other companies, as it allows Blackbird to fire off complaints at breakneck speed and at much lower costs.

To eliminate what he sees as a "perfect innovation-killing machine," Prince had his company not only challenge the patent in question, but also put up $50,000 in reward money for anyone who could dig up prior art that could be used to invalidate any of Blackbird's patents and prevent the company from using them in court.

In the weeks since Project Jengo was announced, Prince says the response from the public has been overwhelming.

"We've been impressed with the exceptionally high quality of the submissions. The Cloudflare community of users and readers of our blog are an accomplished bunch, so we have a number of searches that were done by expert engineers and programmers," Prince said.

"In one case that stood out to us, someone wrote in about a project they personally had worked on as an engineer back in 1993, which they are convinced is conclusive prior art to a Blackbird Tech patent. We will continue to collect and review these submissions."

In addition to the prior art submissions, money has also been pouring into the project. Prince says an anonymous donor has offered to put up another $50,000 to further expand the payouts for prior art submissions on any Blackbird Tech patent.

Prince says CloudFlare is going to launch a lobbying arm of Project Jengo that will focus on supporting state-level politicians who draft legislation to overhaul the patent litigation system and discourage patent holders from flooding the courts with dubious infringement claims to make a quick buck.

"Even though the patent system may be based on Federal law, states have the ability to set rules for how businesses, and especially lawyers, behave in their jurisdictions," said Prince.

"So we're happy to work with interested lawmakers in other states, including Delaware, to advance new laws that limit the practices of patent trolls, including Blackbird Tech's 'new model.' We can share the information we've learned and pull together model legislation." ®

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