PersonalWeb and Level 3 Communications have filed patent complaint against Rackspace for hosting GitHub. Update: PersonalWeb has a history of suing large tech companies, including Google, Facebook and Apple.
Update: Here’s Rackspace’s response.
PersonalWeb is the main plaintiff in the case.
Level3 and Personal Web purchased several patents from Kinetech and Digital Island in 2000 Kinetech, a subsidiary of Brilliant Digital Entertainment, acquired PersonalWeb Technologies last September. PersonalWeb’s arangement with Level 3 apparently predates the acquisition — and each own a 50% undivided interest in the patents. Update: According to the complaint, it’s being brought about solely by PersonalWeb, and Level 3 may not have even known that PersonalWeb was filing the complaint. According to TechDirt, PersonalWeb was founded by Kevin Bermeister, whose previous company Brilliant Digital Entertainment acquired the file sharing system Kazaa, and former Streamcast (the company behind the file sharing service Morpheus) CEO Michael Weiss. PersonalWeb is actually owned by Brilliant Digital (see above). Weiss was CEO at the time of the acquisition.
After the acquisition, PersonalWeb began suing major tech companies: Amazon, Caringo, Dropbox, EMC, Google, NEC, NetApp, VMware and YouTube. As noted by a commenter, complaints have also been filed against Nexsan, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and IBM.
PersonalWeb is registered in East Texas, an infamous haven for patent lawsuits.
When it’s not busy filing lawsuits, the company develops StudyPods a “social learning platform” that enables students to upload notes and collaborate. Students can upload assignments to StudyPod and the app will search for related notes and documents to help the student with their research. To do this it uses natural language processing, and the company cites many patents that it holds in this area. The PersonalWeb site says the company is also applying these patents to the enterprise. The complaint also lists a PersonalWeb product called Global File Registry, a digital content management system for copyright protection.
Although the complaint is focused on technology in use at GitHub, the complaint targets Rackspace, GitHub’s host. “Rackspace further contributes to and induces others to manufacture, use, sell, import,and/or offer for sale these infringing products and services,” it reads.
What kind of precedent would it set if companies were found to be infringing just by hosting other companies’ applications?
Here’s the complaint, via PriorSmart:
The patents in question are:
- Data processing system using substantially unique identifiers to identify data items, whereby identical data items.
- Identifying and requesting data in network using identifiers which are based on contents of data
- Enforcement and policing of licensed content using content-based identifiers
- Controlling access to data in a data processing system
- De-duplication of data in a data processing system
- Similarity-based access control of data in a data processing system
- Distributing and accessing data in a data processing system
- Computer file system using content-dependent file identifiers
- Accessing data in a data processing system