Lodsys sues app developers

This is just a short update on what is happening with the Lodsys patent dispute. Lodsys filed a suit against 7 app developers in East Texas (what a surprise). The companies affected are 6 Apple and one Android: Combay, Iconfactory, Illusion Labs AB,  Shovelmate, Quickoffice, Richard Shinderman, and Wulven Game Studios.The suit appears to be for infringement of two generic patents (I have not been able to find the complaint online yet), these are 7,222,078, which protects “Methods and systems for gathering information from units of a commodity across a network”; and 7,620,565, which protects a “Customer-based product design module”.

It seems like Lodsys has decided to jump the gun and moved faster filing the lawsuits than anyone expected. According to Florian Mueller at FOSS Patents, the reason for this is:

“The only way I understand Lodsys’s claim that it needed “to preserve its legal options” is presumably that Lodsys feared Apple might seek declaratory judgment of non-infringement in a different jurisdiction than East Texas, the troll-friendly venue Lodsys chose (as I expected). Maybe it would have been a good idea for Apple to seek declaratory judgment much sooner, but Apple either didn’t want to do that or was just too slow.”

This patent suit is generating a lot of heat against patents in the venture capital circles as well as in the app developer community. Fred Wilson pretty much expresses the feelings of many when he says:

“The mess around the Lodsys patents should be a wake up call to everyone involved in the patent business (government bureaucrats, legislators, lawyers, investors, entrepreneurs, etc) that the system is totally broken and we can’t continue to go on like this.
First of all, the idea of a transaction in an application isn’t novel. That idea has been resident in software for many years. The fact that the PTO issued a patent on the idea of “in app transactions” is ridiculous and an embarassment.
Second, Lodsys didn’t even “invent” the idea. They purchased the patent and are now using it like a cluster bomb on the entire mobile app developer community. They are the iconic patent troll, taxing innovation and innovators for their own selfish gain. They are evil and deserve all the ill will they are getting.”

I still think that app developers in jurisdictions that are not encumbered with software patents may benefit greatly. My deepest condolences to those software developers affected.

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