The fur, as well as the “pixie dust” is starting to fly in the contentious patent trolling war launched against Android and Apple app developers. The infamous patent troller in question, patent-holding firm Lodsys, LLC, sued nearly a dozen app developers claiming infringement of two patents the firm owns that Apple and Google are already paying licensing fees for. In response, Apple has come out swinging in support of its app developers. But Google has watched silently from the sidelines, doing absolutely nothing to support Android developers under siege from a company whose sole profit model is based on the successful outcome of cease and desist letters and lawsuits. Finally, after receiving heaps of criticism from developers, Google took action. According to Wired, the search engine giant filed a request with the U.S. Patent Office asking for reexamination of the two Lodsys patents in question. Finally!
Angry Birds Developer Targeted
The high stakes drama began months ago when Lodsys began sending threatening cease and desist letters to a handful of coders who develop Android and iOS mobile apps. Hoping to score a quick settlement, Lodsys gave the developers twenty-one days to pay up or risk a costly lawsuit. The developers caught up in Lodsys’ net, include Angry Birds developer Rovio, Labyrinth creator Illusion Labs and Pocket God developer Dave Castelnuovo. Rather than intervening in the lawsuits, as Apple recently has, Google decided to attack Lodsys at the root of its claims with the U.S. Patent Office.
Google Takes Action
Google asked the Patent Office to take another look at the basis for awarding the two patents 7,222,078 and 7,620,565. The patents cover in-app payments technology, which is used in many apps. It’s unlikely that the Patent Office would throw out the patents, but there’s a fair chance they could be sufficiently narrowed to significantly weaken Lodsys’ claims. There’s also the outside chance the patent Office could issue a stay of the litigation until a decision on the reexamination request is made. Google’s strategic move against the patents is viewed as the path of least resistance and is much cheaper than waging a federal lawsuit. But Google is still leaving the third-party Android developers to fend for themselves when it comes to the costly lawsuit.
The Foss Patents blog correctly points out that Google’s patent request is too little too late, because it “doesn’t provide app developers with a basis on which they could simply ignore Lodsys’ letters and take the risk of being sued.” Still, it’s a start.
Lodsys’ War of Words
After receiving harsh criticism for its abhorrent patent trolling, Lodsys took to its company blog to make its case, while hurling verbal volleys at Apple. The Texas-based patent holder shot back at the “flash mob” of criticism and claimed it received “death threats.” After Apple released a statement strongly defending its app developers saying, “Apple is undisputedly licensed to these patent and the Apple App Makers are protected by that license,” Lodsys responded once again on its blog. “The scope of their current licenses does NOT enable them to provide “pixie dust” to bless another (3rd party) business applications,” wrote Lodsys.
No doubt, Lodsys will soon have something to say about Google’s attempt to sprinkle its own magical pixie dust on its Android developers.