Seattle is home to some of the largest technology companies in the world and more recently has become widely recognized as “Cloud City” (and not because of the weather). In addition to major cloud players like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft, Seattle is home to cloud computing companies like F5 Networks, Vertafore, Avalara, Apptio and Smartsheet, not to mention many more cloud computing startups. While cloud computing technology and business trends are well covered by a wide range of media outlets, one area that has not seen focus is the intersection of cloud computing and intellectual property. Given Shook’s presence in Seattle and our firm’s focus on IP, we believe the time is right to launch a blog devoted to covering intellectual property issues impacting cloud computing: Cloud IPQ – Enhancing Your Cloud IP IQ.
Cloud IPQ will cover a range of cloud computing IP issues, with a particular emphasis on the increasing number of patent lawsuits filed against cloud computing companies. As more companies move their own technologies and services to the cloud, or utilize cloud technology and services from other providers, this is an issue that deserves attention. It’s likely no surprise that major cloud companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Oracle face a large number of patent lawsuits on their cloud offerings. But what might be surprising is the growing number of patent lawsuits filed against dozens of other companies that one might not immediately categorize as a “cloud company” but have been sued for offering their Software as a Service (SaaS). Our research indicates that hundreds of such patent lawsuits have been filed over the last five years. And many other patent lawsuits have been filed against customers for their use of cloud services from other providers.
Non-Practicing Entities (NPEs) or Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs), often called Patent Trolls, have definitely turned their sights toward cloud computing technology. Entities such as Global Equity Management, Blackbird Tech, and St. Luke Technologies, just to name a few, have entered the cloud computing patent litigation arena in a big way. These and other NPEs are “high-volume plaintiffs,” frequently filing multiple lawsuits against an industry or customer segment. Often these cases settle within a few months, most likely for a relatively modest amount (e.g., under $100k), which is just enough to entice defendants to get out early (justifiably so), but also just enough to fuel the NPE’s next patent assertion campaign.
Cloud IPQ looks forward to providing ongoing reporting and analysis on cloud computing patent lawsuits, as well as related legal issues that may impact the cloud computing IP landscape. Our goal is to become the leading destination for insights and information on cloud IP cases, and to raise awareness and offer guidance on the need for an IP strategy focused on the cloud. We would value any suggestions on specific cases or issues of interest, and will always welcome your feedback.