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Cloudflare coughs up a few grand for prior-art torpedoes to sink troll

DDoS blocker well on its way to nuking Blackbird Tech in patent showdown

Cloudflare says its efforts to wipe out a patent troll using prior art have already yielded more than a dozen examples.

The DDoS shield said that its ongoing campaign against Blackbird Technologies LLC, a law firm based in Boston, Massachusetts, has cost it a few pennies – $7,500 specifically – to cover bounties on 15 examples of prior art that could be used to invalidate Blackbird's patents.

Dubbed Project Jango, the campaign seeks to invalidate the patents Cloudflare says Blackbird is using to unfairly target companies with lawsuits in hope of making a quick buck on settlements.

Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince said his biz has received more than 230 submissions so far, and of those, 15 have been accepted for an average payout of $500 apiece.

"We have already come across a number of standouts that appear to be strong contenders for invalidating many of the Blackbird Tech patents," Prince wrote in a company blog post.

"This means it is time for us to launch the first formal challenge against a Blackbird patent (besides our own), AND distribute the first round of the bounty to 15 recipients totaling $7,500."

Now, Prince says, Cloudflare is ready to launch individual challenges to specific Blackbird patents. The company believes it has enough examples of prior art on US Patent 7,797,448, "GPS-internet Linkage" to lodge a challenge.

"Blackbird filed suit in July 2016 against six companies asserting this '448 patent. All of those cases were voluntarily dismissed by Blackbird within three months – fitting a pattern where Blackbird was only looking for small settlements from defendants who sought to avoid the costs and delays of litigation," Prince said.

"A successful challenge that invalidates or limits the scope of this patent could put an end to such practices."

The campaign comes as Prince and Cloudflare find themselves transitioning from being a quiet, possibly underappreciated part of the internet to being one of the most important and controversial companies in the IT sector.

Cloudflare found itself thrust into the spotlight last month when, at Prince's order, Cloudflare suspended the DDoS protection it was providing to neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer, causing the site to almost immediately be knocked offline by attackers.

The move raised debates over the extent of free speech rights online and the role network service providers play in protecting them. ®

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