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.

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Chinmoy Kanjilal

Chinmoy Kanjilal is a FOSS enthusiast and evangelist. He is passionate about Android. Security exploits turn him on and he loves to tinker with computer networks. You can connect with him on Twitter @ckandroid.