Let me make one thing clear right from the outset, like most other normal people, I hate money hungry scumbags. Hence, it is but obvious that I don’t hold patent trolls like Lodsys in very high regard. If the name Lodsys doesn’t ring a bell, then here’s a quick recap of what has happened so far.
Lodsys LLC owns four patents that were granted to it between 1999 and 2009. As far as I can tell, Lodsys has never manufactured any product. Creating documents describing some pretty mundane processes is as far as its innovative streak went. Nevertheless, since one of the patents (US 7,222,078) granted to Lodsys seemingly describes an in-app purchase mechanism, Apple, Google, as well as Microsoft, licensed the concerned patent from Lodsys. However, not being content with just wrangling money out of the big names, Lodsys decided to target the defenseless the individual app developers. It threatened and then sued several iOS and Android application developers who had implemented in-app purchase mechanisms into their apps by using the APIs provided by Apple and Google respectively. Thankfully, Apple stepped in to defend the developers who were being harassed unfairly. It first fired an opened letter, and then officially filed a motion to intervene. On the other hand, Google, the company that desperately tries to promote a do-gooder image, has done absolutely nothing so far to show that it gives a damn about the developers who are responsible for building the Android ecosystem.
Sadly, greed knows no bounds. It now appears that Lodsys is even targeting apps that don’t employ in-app purchase mechanisms. EpicForce Entertainment, the developer of iFighter 1945, which doesn’t use in-app purchase, received a notice from Lodsys demanding royalties. When EpicForce replied back explaining their position, this is what a certain Harry Snodgrass had to say on the behalf of Lodsys:
My name is Harry Snodgrass and I have been assigned your account. I would like to respond to your email dated July 4th, 2011 attached below. First let me state that Lodsys is interested in a positive dialog with the goal of a prompt and reasonable resolution to this matter.
In your email you refer to the following – “directed to systems and methods for providers of products and/or services to interact with users of those products and services to gather information from those users and transmit that information to the provider”.
The title of a patent, such as stated above, is a general description of the area the patent addresses to allow for more efficient searching of patents and their general subject matter. The patent we sent a claim chart for has a claim that is directed at eliciting from a user, through a user interface presented by the product or service, a perception of the user of the product or service.
The patent specification sets forth many different types of perceptions and how they may be elicited. One of those is through interactive services and transactions. Specifically, a perception that can be elicited is the desire of the user to indicate their desire to purchase something that is related to or complementary to the product or service.
In this specific case, the perception being elicited through the offer to the user to buy “Super Laser: The Alien Fighter” through the interface presented by iFighter 1945 is, Do you find our games valuable enough to buy another game we think you are interested in from us?. The elicited perception is returned to you (you are the vendor of both iFighter and Super Laser) through the revenue you receive from the app store for the purchase of the new game.
I trust that this has clarified the matter and that you now understand that we are not mistaken. We would like to enter into meaningful discussion with you about an appropriate license that is scaled to your use of our patented invention. We look forward to doing that as soon as possible.
In other words, being the douchebags that they are, Lodsys is now trying to take advantage of the ambiguous wording of the patent documents to extort money from developers who employ cross-promotion through More Gamesor similar techniques. James Thomson had earlier spotted a similar instance.
Just found out that one of the targeted developers isn’t even using in-app purchase – just a button that opens a link to the App Store.
It is obvious that the current patent system is broken. The situation is spiraling out of control with pretty much everyone suing everyone else. The patent system might have been created with the idea of fostering and rewarding innovation, but these days it is doing exactly the reverse. Interestingly enough, IBM seems hell bent on patenting the art of patent trolling. They haven’t had much success yet, but I am rooting for them. If IBM is indeed granted the patent, then theoretically they might be able to use that to sue the hell out of patent trolls like Lodsys. Now, that would indeed be poetic.