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Arkansas engineer wins round 3 of Project Jengo, and Cloudflare continues to win at the Patent Office


6 min read
The latest winner of Cloudflare’s Project Jengo, along with some important case updates.

We are excited to announce another Project Jengo winner, and provide you with an important update on our fight against Sable Networks.

As a reminder, Project Jengo is Cloudflare’s efforts to flip the incentive structure that has encouraged the growth of patent trolls that seek to leverage overbroad and unpracticed patents to extract settlements from operating entities. We do this by refusing to settle patent cases brought against us by trolls, and instead, use a crowdsourced bounty to identify prior art that undermines the value of the troll’s patents, and not just the ones asserted against Cloudflare. This is the second iteration of Project Jengo, which is focused on a patent troll called Sable.

Even though the case against Sable has been active for over a year now, and we’ve already achieved some great results, we haven’t let up the pressure. We’re now also giving out Cloudflare T-shirts to new Project Jengo participants – all you need to do is submit prior art related to any of the Sable patents this year and the first 100 participants with a U.S. mailing address will receive a Cloudflare t-shirt.

$5,000 to Project Jengo’s round three winner!

We have already awarded $30,000 so far to winners of the Sable-focused Project Jengo. Last quarter, we awarded $10,000 to a former R&D engineer from Rennes, France who heard about Project Jengo through Hacker News. This round, we are excited to announce that we’ll be awarding Curtis Carter with $5,000!

In explaining why he participated in Project Jengo, Curtis said:

“As a maintainer/contributor for several open source projects (NuGetDefense being my main project), I'm always afraid some troll is going to attack one of my projects or a project I contribute to, and I may not be able to afford stopping it.”

That is why we started Project Jengo – to help support and protect innovators against malicious patent trolls. They hinder innovation of productive companies, and trade in fear as currency. As Curtis highlighted, the future is brighter without trolls:

“I think what you are doing is for the good of future generations, and I'm proud I got to participate even if I hadn't won anything.”

Developers and innovators should not work in fear that trolls will target them for frivolous settlements. The patent system was built to promote innovation, not destroy it.

Not only does Curtis maintain NuGetDefense (a known vulnerability scanner for the .Net NuGet ecosystem), he’s also an engineer at Tech Friends, Inc., a software development company that he claims is the best employer for software developers in Northeast Arkansas. Impressively, he is self-taught.

“This was the first time in a while that I dug into old research documents and patents. Honestly, the people who originally put this stuff together were often brilliant, and their work is a joy to read (even if it's a bit dry).”

As for his submission, Curtis Carter took on the challenge of finding prior art for United States Patent No. 8,085,775, an over broad patent that Sable owns and generally covers a mechanism for identifying, classifying, and controlling flows over a network.

Sable chose not to assert that patent against Cloudflare in our ongoing litigation. The prior art he found specifically addresses “methods, apparatuses and systems directed to a flow-based, traffic-classification-aware data collection and reporting system…” according to its abstract (US Patent No. 7,385,924). Furthermore, the prior art Curtis found pre-dates Sable’s patent by just over three years.

Curtis's discovery has the added benefit of teaching many concepts to the narrower ’593 patent that Sable is asserting in the lawsuit. The narrower patent specifically addresses a method for identifying and penalizing misbehaving flows in a network. Side note: the patent is so old that its background description references some ancient applications:

“With the advent of file sharing applications such as KaZaA, Gnutella, BearShare, and Winny, the amount of peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic on the Internet has grown immensely in recent years.”

The prior art found by Curtis demonstrates TCP’s use of a sliding window scheme in which flow control is exercised over incoming flows. This is exactly the type of flow control both patents purport to cover. Furthermore, we were impressed with Curtis’ efforts to find prior art related to one of the narrower patents owned by Sable – well done, Mr. Carter!

As for what his discovery looks like, take a look at the first sentence of the patent’s abstract to get an idea.

Methods, apparatuses and systems directed to a flow-based, traffic-classification-aware data collection and reporting system that combine flow-based data collection technologies with enhanced traffic classification functionality to allow for analysis and reporting into aspects of network operations that prior art systems cannot provide.

If you haven’t won yet, don’t be discouraged. We have committed \$100,000 to this prior art search, so we still have \$65,000 to give out!

Sable has one less weapon in its arsenal as it admits defeat on a patent!

As part of our fight against Sable, we’ve been involved in a year-long process before the US Patent Office called Inter Partes Review (or “IPR”) with the goal of invalidating patents held by Sable Networks. You can check out our blog post from 2017 that outlines how the IPR process works. In our last blog post, we were pleased to announce that the Patent Office agreed to institute IPR on some of Sable’s patents. Today, we’re even happier to announce that we’ve officially killed off Sable’s ‘932 patent.

Once the Patent Office agrees to review the validity of a patent, the owner of the patent typically files a brief defending the validity of its patent (because if you own it you should think it’s valid, right?). But in this case, instead of explaining to the Patent Office why its ’932 patent is valid (or why Cloudflare is wrong), Sable simply decided to voluntarily cancel all claims of the patent. Since there is no claim left for the Patent Office to review, the IPR should be terminated soon, and we’ve effectively obtained the full relief requested!

This is a big win for anyone concerned with abuse of the patent system, including all the companies that Sable Networks previously attacked with this patent, including Dell, Cisco Systems, Hewlett Packard, Palo Alto Networks, Juniper Networks, Aruba Networks, amongst others. Yes, as absurd as it sounds, this patent has been used by Sable Networks to help squeeze out settlements from numerous productive technology companies. This victory means that Sable has one less patent to try to leverage in its attempts to abuse the patent system.

Coinbase announces that it will fight back against patent trolls

As we mentioned in our February blog post, part of our goal with Project Jengo is to spread the word that targets of these trolls can and should fight back and win. That’s why we were thrilled to see a recent blog post from Coinbase announcing that the company is following Cloudflare’s lead when it comes to pushing back on patent trolls. Trolls count on easy targets to fund their operations through settlements, so it’s great news that a major company like Coinbase has made clear that it will refuse to capitulate and will instead fight back.

Please keep your submissions coming!

We could not have gotten to this point without the help of the many Project Jengo participants. We have received hundreds of prior art references on Sable’s ten patents, and we have used many of those references in our efforts to kill off the patents that Sable asserted against us.

Thank you to everyone who has participated in Project Jengo for supporting the broader community and helping us take down a patent troll. If you haven’t participated yet, please consider submitting to our prior art contest.

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