Patent troll Lodsys is on the move once again, adding to its original case Atari, EA, Rovio, Square Enix, and Take-Two while removing Vietnamese developer Wulven Games.
Around the middle of last month, Lodsys contacted a multitude of iOS and Android developers threatening to sue them for their usage of in-app purchases – a business model for which Lodsys holds a patent. They afterward went ahead and opened suit on May 31st. Apple responded in kind by filing a motion to intervene, claiming that they have a license that covers their developers. Google made no public statement.
In addition to Apple’s response, ForeSee Results Inc. helped put pressure on the Texas-based company by filing a declaratory judgement action against Lodsys… in Illinois. As our Editor-in-Chief Christopher Bowen notes: ForeSee wagers that CEO Mark Small is actually Lodsys’ only employee, operating and living in Illinois, despite Lodsys formally doing business in East Texas. Coincidentally, East Texas is very well known for its tendency to side with the patent holder in all patent litigation.
Lodsys has now amended their suit, claiming that “Rovio makes, sells, uses, imports, and/or offers to sell infringing applications, including but not limited to Angry Birds for iPhone and Angry Birds for Android.” They are also claiming other infringements include such titles as Atari’s Greatest Hits (iPhone/iPad), EA’s The Sims 3 (iPhone), Square Enix’s Big Hit Baseball (iPhone/iPad), and Take-Two’s 2K Sports NHL 2K11 (iPhone).
Analysis: This has gone on for far too long. Lodsys is taking our legal system for a joyride, and they’re well within their rights to do so. They are exploiting loopholes and highlighting the horrible software patent legislation currently in place. Between Lodsys trolling everyone, and big names like Apple and Samsung suing each other, it’s very clear that laws need to be reformed. Unfortunately, the US legal system is a very slow-moving creature, and the current laws in place are not designed well enough to adapt to emerging technology.
One argument is that software patents shouldn’t even exist – patents are essentially the rights to an idea. Unfortunately, as a developer this means if you figure out how to code a clever new solution or a way to do something you are opening yourself to a lawsuit. If someone has the patent for that idea, they can sue the shit out of you. It doesn’t matter if they’ve ever even attempted to code the idea themselves; they own the rights to the idea, so if you want to use it, you have to pay them for those rights. This legislature stifles innovation among all but the powerful companies. This same argument could be used for patents in general, but it is more obvious in the software world because computers encourage anyone to be an inventor. If someone wants to invent something, all they need is to sit down and start coding.
The bottom line: if the courts allow Lodsys to win these cases, despite the glaring exploitation, then something is seriously wrong with our legal system.