Rackspace's patent strategy: Kill the patent, starve the troll

Rackspace says Rotatable Technologies is practicing exortion in claim of patent for screen-rotation tech

Rackspace has publically outlined its strategy for taking on so-called patent troll Rotatable Technologies: Abolish the patent, vanquish the troll. This marks the third time this year that Rackspace has shared its patent troll battles with the public. First, Rackspace and Red Hat defeated Uniloc, a notorious patent troll; following that, the company took on a company called Parallel Iron -- which Rackspace dubbed "the most notorious patent troll in America."

The latest chapter involves a company called Rotatable Technologies, which claims it owns the patent covering the screen-rotation technology commonly found in smartphones, according to Rackspace General Counsel Alan Schoenbaum. The company is threatening to take Rackspace (as well as Apple, Netflix, Electronic Arts, Target, and Whole Foods) to court if they don't cough up a cash settlement. By Rackspace's reckoning, Rotatable's patent claim is invalid, in that companies have offered screen-rotation capabilities long before Rotatable filed its patent in 1999.

Rackspace has asserted that Rotatable is out for a quick payday. In fact, according to Schoenbaum, Rotatable "has admitted their trollish motives." He wrote that when Rackspace contacted the company to request an extension to review the complaint, Rotatable "told us they had been instructed by their client to offer a settlement of $75,000 to anyone who contacts them asking for an extension of time. And that the number was negotiable."

It's a textbook case of patent extortion, Schoenbaum wrote:

A patent troll will file a series of "nearly identical patent infringement complaints against a plethora of diverse defendants." ... Trolls do this to cast as wide a net as possible. They purposefully include companies that aren't prepared to engage in patent litigation.

Rather than forking over cash to get its adversary to go away, Rackspace is formally challenging the validity of Rotatable's patent claim by filing for an Inter Partes Review (IPR), a new proceeding made available under the America Invents Act. A board of patent reviewers will have a year to decide if the patent Rotatable has claimed is indeed valid.

Schoenbaum explained the rationale behind the strategy thusly: "When it comes to fighting this particular troll, we believe an IPR is our best option to have this patent abolished at its source -- eliminate the root, destroy the weed," he wrote. "We are optimistic that the patent office will agree with our petition and invalidate the patent, stopping Rotatable from attacking businesses in hopes of pilfering their hard-earned money and hindering app developers and the open source community from bringing their best every day."

This article, "Rackspace's patent strategy: Ditch the patent, starve the troll," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.