Lodsys brings patent claims against Angry Birds creator, big App Store names

Jul 26, 2011
Games

It seems tech company Lodsys is pretty confident in its iOS patent case, because it has just grabbed a stick and poked every bear in the proverbial woods. Lodsys first popped up a couple months back, when it started sending claims to indie developers in the iTunes App Store claiming they needed to pay licensing […]

It seems tech company Lodsys is pretty confident in its iOS patent case, because it has just grabbed a stick and poked every bear in the proverbial woods.

Lodsys first popped up a couple months back, when it started sending claims to indie developers in the iTunes App Store claiming they needed to pay licensing fees on patents the company owned. The primary patent is one Lodsys owns, basically, for in-app purchases – a patent on which Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG), among others, pay licensing fees in order to use. Lodsys also claims to own a patent on upgrading apps through purchases within those apps, and has been sending letters to developers asking for licensing fees and threatening legal action if it doesn’t receive them.

Mostly small developers targeted to date

So far, Lodsys has only targeted smaller developers that probably don’t have the money to take it on in court, a strategy that seemed more likely to get it the money it seeks while avoiding costly legal battles for everyone involved. It has also seen as a bit of a muscle tactic and companies that do this sort of thing are often referred to as “patent trolls” because they seem to prey on companies that may or may not have infringed on its patents. Apple has pledged some kind of support to those developers, filing a motion to join as a co-defendant with seven developers and sending a letter to Lodsys stating that its license applied to app developers as well, but that hasn’t caused the patent holder to back off.

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Lodsys claims EA, Atari and Square Enix are also in violation

But now Lodsys has stepped up its game and is no longer attacking small developers without a lot of money – instead, it has sent letters to developers such as Rovio Mobile (which created Angry Birds), Square Enix, Electronic Arts and Atari, according to FOSS Patents.

This is interesting because Lodsys is now dealing with companies that not only have the means to fight it in court, but a pretty huge incentive to do so in the form of making an example of Lodsys in order to scare off other companies that might come calling with patents in the same vein. Those developers are also now united against Lodsys and could presumably throw in with Apple and other developers to make a big coalition with plenty of money to fight the case, and potentially leaving Lodsys being the disadvantaged contender without enough money to fight the case.

But it seems that Lodsys thinks it has a pretty strong legal case and can win out before a judge; if not, it may have just made a big error in judgment by pushing so many powerful contenders into the corner opposite it.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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