Man bites dog: Rackspace sues “notorious” patent troll

Rackspace(s rax), which just successfully defended itself in a lawsuit filed by one patent troll, is now declaring war on another.

On Thursday, the company said it sued IP Nav and Parallel Iron, asking the federal court in its hometown of San Antonio Texas for damages, for breach of contract and to enter a declaratory judgement asserting that Rackspace does not infringe on Parallel Iron’s patents.

The back story, according to a Rackspace blog post, is that Parallel Iron sued Rackspace and 11 others in Delaware. That suit alleges that the defendants infringed on three patents that Parallel Iron claims cover the use of the open-source Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS).

In his post, Alan Schoenbaum, Rackspace SVP and general counsel wrote:

“Parallel Iron is the latest in a string of shell companies created to do nothing more than assert patent-infringement claims as part of a typical patent troll scheme of pressuring companies to pay up or else face crippling litigation costs. At least that is what it looks like on the surface.

That description certainly jibes with what GigaOM’s Jeff Roberts has reported, over the past few months. The goal of these trolls is to wring money out of targets but sometimes, legitimate tech companies give their IP to trolls in order to harass rivals or even create their own shell to pursue this sort of litigation.

Patent shell companies claim that they give small companies — those without the resources to enforce their own patents — a way to do so. Under that theory, these small companies, or academics or a nongovernmental agency (NGO) might turn their IP over to a shell company to protect it.

That’s a contention that Shoenbaum called “laughable.” Rackspace’s complaint is here.