The new Patent Troll in Town — Parallel Iron

Parallel Iron was in the headlines a few years ago when its patent on Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS) was marked as a matter of concern. Last year, Parallel Iron started showing its true colors, and sued many big names in the world of technology like Facebook, Amazon, LinkedIn and Oracle for using some of its patented file-systems including the HDFS file system. Parallel Iron is one of those typical opportunistic shell companies that just sit atop patents without creating anything using those patents. However, the most annoying part of this story is that Hadoop is a top level Apache project, and its development involved a number of reputed companies. The HDFS file system was developed form the Google File System, but Parallel Iron believes otherwise.


Parallel Iron claims that the HDFS file system was created by four innovators, who got patents for this technology, and then assigned the patents to Ring Technology Enterprises, now Parallel Iron. The lawsuit claim [link to PDF] says,

…Defendant has infringed and continues to infringe the ’388 patent in the State of Delaware, in this judicial district, and elsewhere in the United States, by, among other things, making, using, importing, offering for sale and/or selling high throughput computer data storage products and/or services covered by one or more claims of the ’388 patent. Such products and/or services include, by way of example and without limitation, those implementing GFS, which are covered by one or more claims of the ’388 patent…

Parallel Iron also sued Rackspace with its usual intent of extortion, but Rackspace is fighting back. The sad part is that a reputed internet company like Rackspace that can boast of thriving innovation is spending five times more on combating patent trolls than it used to spend in 2010. Like Rackspace, many other companies sued by patent trolls every year either succumb or incur heavy legal charges fighting worthless and prolonged court cases.

The patent system needs serious reforms, and the people at the top seriously need to realize this.

Another Day, Another Patent Troll — This Time over SSL

Meet Erich Spangenberg. This Texan is the owner of TQP, a company that like any other patent troll has not produced anything worthwhile, but has a popular patent under its belt. The company has only two employees, Spangenberg himself, and Michael Jones who filed a patent back in 1989. This was a crucial patent for the web as its title reads,

Encrypted Data Transmission System Employing Means for Altering the Encryption Keys

Although the patent was filed back in 1989, TQP acquired the patent only in 2006 and has been sitting atop the patent ever since, suing most of the big brands from the IT and internet industry. The patent covers the use of SSL over the web.


TQP is a perfect example of a patent troll, but a lot has to be wrong with the current patent system as well. A network-related patent filed back in 1989 is being granted 17 years later. To put this into perspective, the World Wide Web was invented back in 1989, and so was the patent.

TQP has made a living out of suing companies from various verticals over the last five years. So far, it has sued 500 companies, including Google, Apple, HP, Intel, Amazon, Dell, Electronic Arts, Adobe, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, HSBC, Walt Disney, United Airlines and even Exxon Mobil. As we can see here, the patent is so broad that TQP can sue every other company out there that has a website and encrypts its pages. What does Spangenberg have to say about this?

When the government grants you the right to a patent, they grant you the right to exclude others from using it.  I don’t understand why just because SSL is prevalent, it should be free.

Spangenberg has over 247 companies, that do nothing other than owning certain patents and filing lawsuits, but this SSL patent has to be the golden goose. The patent has already faced re-examination once but has not been revoked. What surprises me is that companies like Apple and Google that believe in the web are falling easy prey to this SSL patent troll! If anyone, these companies should have defended the right to use SSL.

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