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Lodsys Sues 7 iPhone Devs Over Patent Infringement Claims 123

Posted by timothy
from the all-very-horatio-alger-villain dept.
Dachannien writes "Patently-O and Ars Technica report that Lodsys has filed suit [here's the complaint] in the Eastern District of Texas against seven iPhone developers, asserting that the defendants are infringing two patents. Apple had previously indicated their belief that all iPhone developers are protected by a licensing agreement that Apple had made with the patents' former assignee, Intellectual Ventures. But Lodsys insists that the defendants are nonetheless liable for infringement. Still an open question is whether Apple will go beyond the mailing of strongly worded letters in defending third-party iPhone devs."
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Lodsys Sues 7 iPhone Devs Over Patent Infringement Claims

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  • by Translation Error (1176675) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @02:22PM (#36322974)
    They're filing in the Eastern District of Texas, you say? What a shock!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      We need to get a bunch of nerds to move to East Texas and try to get on as many patent infringement juries as possible.

      • We need to get a bunch of nerds to move to East Texas and try to get on as many patent infringement juries as possible.

        Why the hate? What have nerds done to you that makes you want to punish them in that way?

        • by s73v3r (963317)

          We're not hating, we're just asking them to make this sacrifice for the greater good. They will be remembered as heroes.

        • East Texas is a nice place. I'm trying to think of places I've liked better - ohhhh - the Cascade Mountains, Nova Scotia, Alaska, Montana, Scotland, West Texas, maybe a couple of others. East Texas isn't my first choice for a retirement home, but it comes in a LONG way ahead of Florida, Massachussets, California, Arizona, Virginia, or several other states.

          While you're busy hating on Texans, maybe you should look in your own backyard, maybe do a little investigating. There are plenty of douches living in

          • by gtall (79522)

            Not East Texans, rather the federal courts in East Texas. In short, don't be an idiot.

          • by WyzrdX (1390963)

            East Texas is a nice place.........

            East Texas isn't my first choice for a retirement home, but it comes in a LONG way ahead of Florida, Massachussets, California, Arizona, Virginia, or several other states.

            While you're busy hating on Texans, maybe you should look in your own backyard,

            Wow. I dont see anyone hating on texas. (Yes I spelled it with a LOWER CASE T). Just like you misspelled Massachusetts I am from Texas and what I see in this comment

            We need to get a bunch of nerds to move to East Texas and try to get on as many patent infringement juries as possible.

            Why the hate? What have nerds done to you that makes you want to punish them in that way?

            is a reference to the "Ill award a verdict to whoever pays the most, AKA Big Corps." mentality of the juries of the court in which this has been filed. There was no hate toward Texans at all. Unless you cant read English. Just the area which is sorely lacking in any resemblance of the 21st Century He was saying we need to get people who know wh

    • by Zomalaja (1324199)
      From the scribd link of the suit:
      "Lodsys is a Texas limited liability company with its principal place of business in Marshall, Texas". which is, of all things, in Eastern Texas. What a coincidence!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Countersue... in Nome, Alaska!

    • by fermion (181285)
      In the best case scenario, the suit is being filed now because on September 1 companies like Lodsys could be liable for all costs if they lose. While the lose pays legislation is primarily an attack on individuals, a blatant effort to remove the one power a person has against harm by a corporations, the side effect could be to stop these frivolous patent lawsuits. We will see how the Texas courts write the rules. It could be written merely to protect the corporation that accidentally kills an infant du
  • A loss to developers due to legal actions could cause a chilling effect towards making iOS application. Developers have to go threw the hassle of approval to make sure their product is good. Then pay Apple 20% of their profits and not having legal protection from Apple would make developers go towards android where at least they can get their software out easier.

    • They are also targeting Android developers. It's not a safe haven.
      • by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @03:34PM (#36323874) Journal

        Until Congress realizes just how goddamned toxic software patents are, there will be no such thing as a safe haven. I don't do a lot of development any more, but I'd be hesitant about getting into the game at all, at least for anything with wide distribution. I'm not even sure you could write hello.c any more without some patent troll trying to nail you with "a program that outputs the phrase 'hello world' through standard output".

        Fucking ludicrous. How could the judiciary and the politicians let it get this bad?

        • by spectro (80839)

          Congress will do nothing. Patents are one of the main forms of passive income for rich people including lawyers, judges and politicians.

          Patent reform will not happen unless we get massive public outcry alike to the civil rights movement.

        • by Issarlk (1429361)
          Or until an anonymous appstore is created, using anonymous currency. If things continue on their way something like that may surface.
    • by Penguinisto (415985) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @02:31PM (#36323074) Journal

      Err, before pronouncing doom and gloom upon all things Apple, you may want to think ahead a bit... this patent appears sufficiently broad enough so that Android and WP7 developers may well be next.

      Personally, while Apple does need to get it in gear and provide as much aid as possible (can 'tortious interference' be a case here if Apple were indeed to sue Lodsys?), Microsoft and Google may *very* well want to get off their butts and at least start making moves to protect their own dev stables.

      PS: Even worst-case, this would be a chilling effect only if your iPhone app included an in-app payment system.

      • "PS: Even worst-case, this would be a chilling effect only if your iPhone app included an in-app payment system."

        While I agree with most of your post, I don't agree with this last point. I've been warming up to be an indie dev on mobile devices, and this chills my enthusiasm in a very general way. I don't know when some butt-munch is going to pull a bogus patent out of their pocket and sue me over something that should never even have been granted a patent, let alone cost me legal fees to defend against.

        • by node 3 (115640)

          Life is full of risks. The odds of being hit with a patent lawsuit are low, and generally even if you lose, the impact is minimal (not that I agree with Lodsys at all, but even worst case, they are asking for a very small percentage). After all, what good is a parasite that kills its host? Better to keep it alive to milk indefinitely.

          Anyway, my point is if you are shying away from doing something because you *might* meet with adversity, you are doing it wrong.

      • this patent appears sufficiently broad enough so that Android and WP7 developers may well be next.

        The question is whether Google and MS will indemnify device manufacturers for the use of their OS.

        • by mjwx (966435)

          this patent appears sufficiently broad enough so that Android and WP7 developers may well be next.

          The question is whether Google and MS will indemnify device manufacturers for the use of their OS.

          Actually, the question is have Google and MS indemnified developers. I beleive the answer is yes.

          That being said, this is an ideal example as to why software patents are utterly useless and contrary to a healthy software market.

          • Actually, the question is have Google and MS indemnified developers. I beleive the answer is yes.

            I'm not so sure about that. While there haven't been lawsuits (yet), Lodsys has already claimed that both companies have purchased their patent license (thus implying that they think it's valid - or at least valid enough that it's cheaper to license than to argue in court), but said license only covers those companies, and not their customers. I don't think there has been any official reaction to that... we shall see.

            Of course, it may just as well result in Google and MS joining forces with Apple on this p

    • by 0racle (667029)
      Android devs would be on the hook for this as well if it goes through. The patent basically covers any and all in-app purchasing. Lodsys has clearly stated the licensing Apple and Google have paid does not cover 3rd party developers.
      • by hedwards (940851)

        Then what precisely did Google and Apple receive when they paid the licensing fee?

        • Then what precisely did Google and Apple receive when they paid the licensing fee?

          I don't know about Google, but seeing as Apple won't disclose the terms of the agreement - maybe they're not allowed to - we can only guess.

          And as guesses go, this seems reasonable, albeit short-sighted by on the part of Google/Apple if it were so:
          Google/Apple acquired a license to use this technology themselves. I.e. if Google added it to their Google Maps app, that's fine. If Apple added it to some iTunes app, that's fine.

    • by hsmith (818216)
      Uh wrong on many fronts. apple takes 30% and Android is probably even worse off, since google makes absolutely no claims to defend people due to the "free" nature of Android.
      Apple pretty much has to step in at this point. I suspect they will file an injunction of some sort for this suit. The implications will be bad if Lodsys can continue to rape companies.
      • by Altus (1034)

        I hope that Apple will step up, but I'm not sure there is anything in the iOS developers agreement that requires them to do so or guarantees any kind of protection against this kind of thing.. If anyone knows of one I would like to see it.

        • by node 3 (115640)

          You're right, there is nothing in the agreement that forces Apple to do this. However, you may be surprised to know that corporations always do things that they aren't forced to do. Generally, these would be things that are reasonably seen as "in their own best interest", but they even do things that the people running the company think is "the right thing to do" (there are definitely some industry leaders for whom this phrase is meaningless, but there are undoubtedly more for whom it does come up at least

          • This hurts Apple, because Apple gets a cut of in-app sales, and because lawsuits of this kind hurt app development for Apple products, which hurts product sales. So purely from self-interest, it seems virtually certain that Apple will sue Lodsys. If Lodsys actually had a good case, Apple would probably be willing to pay the licensing fee, but Apple's view is that they have already paid it. The fact that Lodsys has chosen to sue small developers without the resources to fight in court, rather than Apple, sug

            • by node 3 (115640)

              Aside from the last sentence, you just rephrased part of what I wrote.

              The fact that Lodsys has chosen to sue small developers without the resources to fight in court, rather than Apple, suggests that Lodsys is aware that their case is weak, and are hoping to extort some money from the little guys before Apple shuts them down.

              This, however, I don't think is the case. I don't think this is a quick smash-and-grab. At worst, even assuming that Lodsys doesn't think they have a strong case (and I think they think they do, but who knows?), this is a gambit. The end game is that Lodsys gets a small cut from every in app sale for doing absolutely nothing other than having purchased a patent and filing some lawsuits.

              This is their business model. This is the very reason

        • I hope that Apple will step up, but I'm not sure there is anything in the iOS developers agreement that requires them to do so or guarantees any kind of protection against this kind of thing.. If anyone knows of one I would like to see it.

          Apple had better step in, lest they be sued by their own developers for Fraud for requiring the use of an API that Apple either knew, or should have known, required the payment of undisclosed licensing fees to a third party (Lodsys).

      • by alvinrod (889928)
        If Google were less likely to defend than Apple, why wouldn't Lodsys go after Android developers first? If Apple gets involved, they'll probably bury Lodsys with so much legal red tape that it becomes too costly to keep up with the lawsuit, which while sounding evil is basically what Lodsys hopes to do to the app developers.

        Also, if Apple initiates a defense, it's likely that Google, Microsoft, and several other companies will also aid in the defense because should Apple lose, they're probably next.
        • by node 3 (115640)

          iOS is the larger target. More apps, more users, and disproportionately more revenue in iOS apps. It also makes a bigger splash in the news.

        • by GooberToo (74388)

          Which begs the question, why don't they all just get together and pound the shit out of these guys.

          Personally, I can't get my brain around the fact something so obvious is patentable in the first place. But beyond that, seems like just about every big player would be waiting in line to kick these guys to the curb if they thought it was the least bit defensible.

      • You are both wrong. Yes, Apple takes 30% of REVENUE. Not 30% of profit (as original poster stated). Not a bad deal since they are agent.
        • You are both wrong. Yes, Apple takes 30% of REVENUE. Not 30% of profit (as original poster stated). Not a bad deal since they are agent.

          Not a bad deal for Apple, that is, since most "agents" take 10%, and managers only take 15%.

          • by jscotta44 (881299)

            You mean 10% and 15% plus whatever expenses they incur. And, their clients cover all the other costs of their business ventures. Bet when you add all those things up that you come up with a 30% or more of total revenue going out the door.

    • by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @03:20PM (#36323692) Journal

      First, this is happening to Android developers as well. Second, although you're on the right track, IMO, defending third-party suits is really not that different from an out-of-court settlement to a lawsuit; it encourages other sleazy IP factories to sue app developers to get a quick payoff at Apple's/Google's expense.

      If Apple and Google believe that their contracts with Lodsys grant rights to third-party app developers, then they should sue Lodsys for breach of contract, damage to their reputations (slander), and tortious interference. Between Apple and Google, it shouldn't be hard to thoroughly bury this patent troll company. Anything short of utterly burying them won't be enough of a deterrent to patent troll suits in the future.

      Even better, because such suits would not be counter-suits (Lodsys isn't suing Apple or Google, AFAIK), they could be filed in a more friendly district, e.g. Northern California.

      Just saying.

    • Looks like a good opportunity for Apple to pretend it gives a $#! about it's users/developers. Any platform is only as good as the apps it has available. That's how Palm survived so long with crappy hardware and an even crappier OS. There was always an app (or thirteen) that did what you needed done. If Apple doesn't stand up for the one thing that makes an iP[ad|od|hone] worth having, then it might prove that the one and only iDevice-killer was Apple itself.
  • umad Bro?

    Signed,

    Steve Jobs

    (Sent from my iPhone)

  • by straponego (521991)
    There's been a lot of debate lately about the failed War on Drugs. Some say that legalizing drugs would take most of the income from murderous cartels, while others believe that the cartels would simple move into new markets. I have a win-win solution. Two of the core competencies of the cartels are: anonymously collecting money, and assassinating people. Let's legalize dope and pay the cartels to whack patent trolls. We free up a lot of prison space, increase tax revenues, cut spending, unfetter the e
    • by immakiku (777365)
      I'll respond to your proposal directly and point out the flaws. Patent trolls only exist because a) the patent system exists and b) it's not possible to differentiate the "trolls" from the legitimate inventors. Either you solve b) and remove this problem of trolls altogether, or any solution targeting patent trolls would altogether undermine a). So in short, your solution is the roundabout way of removing the patent system.
      • I'll respond to your proposal directly and point out the flaws. Patent trolls only exist because a) the patent system exists and b) it's not possible to differentiate the "trolls" from the legitimate inventors. Either you solve b) and remove this problem of trolls altogether, or any solution targeting patent trolls would altogether undermine a). So in short, your solution is the roundabout way of removing the patent system.

        Or you apply the Troll Test. Is the potential Troll actually using the patented item. No = Troll.

        • by yurtinus (1590157)
          It isn't quite that simple... you could have inventors who license out to third parties to implement their inventions. Not everybody chooses to do their own manufacturing or development. IE - I have some sweet idea but no means to manufacture, so I license the patent out to you and your big company to develop and manufacture and we split the profits. Now say immakiku comes in and starts using the same technology without licensing the patent. That is a pretty reasonable situation which under such a simple te
      • by s73v3r (963317)

        > it's not possible to differentiate the "trolls" from the legitimate inventors.

        Sure it is. Did you actually invent the item in question? Probably not a troll. If you bought the patent, are you actually using it in one of your products? Oh, you don't have any products? Then you're definitely a troll.

  • Everyone knows it, but I'll state the obvious: The US patent system is badly broken.

  • Software Patent, maybe even patents in general HAVE TO GO! I don't think a single week passes without me hearing about yet another stupid patent suit. They've long since outlived your usefulness.
    • by chrismcb (983081)
      It might be the problem is that there shouldn't be software patents. It seems to me the problem is accepting pretty much any patent that is applied for. Especially in regards to the internet. A lot of these patents are for networks, or client/server architecture. It seems someone says "no one on the internet is doing this, so lets patent it" almost everyone forgets that not only did the internet exist before the World Wide Web but there was also a healthy BBS scene before WWW as well. Almost every patent I
  • Lets not forget... (Score:5, Informative)

    by thestudio_bob (894258) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @02:42PM (#36323214)

    Lodsys Sues 7 iPhone Devs and 1 Andriod Dev Over Patent Infringement Claims..

    Lodsys sues 7 app developers in East Texas, disagrees with Apple; Android also targeted [blogspot.com]

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The punchline of course is nobody cares about the Android devs...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I made the mistake of trying to read one of the patents. I have new-found respect for the staff employeed by the USPO. Good heavens, how someone can make a living reading these on a daily basis is beyond me.

    • by God'sDuck (837829)

      I made the mistake of trying to read one of the patents. I have new-found respect for the staff employeed by the USPO. Good heavens, how someone can make a living reading these on a daily basis is beyond me.

      I don't feel too bad...failure to apply in plain English (except for technical details of a specific implementation) should be immediate grounds for dismissal of a patent. That you can apply with garbage like this and get a patent is the result of precedent. That said...that's the fault of management, not the poor kids fresh out of law school working there until they can find a better job.

    • Good heavens, how someone can make a living reading these on a daily basis is beyond me.

      Duct tape: apply directly to the forehead.

  • What a Lodsys of bullshit. I hope these guys die horrible deaths.
  • "The '078 is the modern day version of a submarine patent, the claims morphing over more than a decade through a CIP and multiple continuations, most of which were abandoned along the way" link [applepatent.com]

    "This Customer-Based Product Design Module (CB-PD Module) invention is designed to embed a new type of product feature within a range of products and services, helping them evolve into Customer Directed Products (CDP) by means of Development Interactions (DI). The result is a continuous source of Aggregate Customer D

  • They will do so based on a pure good business decision.
    If they stand by and do nothing, it will spook the future developers from creating iOS apps.
    Why wouldn't they defend the devs when it could mean issues later on for the profit machine?
  • This is a no-brainer. Even if this was Microsoft instead of Apple, the big company that depends on its developers to enrich their products absolutely had to defend its developers whenever and however possible,

    To take the view that Apple is too "negative adjective" to do the "right thing" would be absurd. They have their own interests to protect and they most certainly will. If they failed to do that, you can expect a massive drop in quality, enthusiasm and number of developers for Apple's platforms. Thi

  • I've been strongly offended by software patents ever since I learned over a decade ago about how meager the "innovations" they protect can be. I think most of us will make one or two "patentable innovations" per day before lunch, or at least infringe with some fundamental task like throwing an exception (never realizing we were "innovating" or "infringing" in the process).

    So where should we send the money? I want to donate to an org that shares my opinions and is doing something about it. The two I know

  • by d3xt3r (527989) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @03:26PM (#36323774)

    The US patent system is badly broken, at least as far as software patents go. We all know that around here. Usually, the cases that make the tech news involve these Patent Trolls suing large companies (Apple, Google, MS), heck, even SCO v Red Hat. However, here we have an example of "the little guy" getting hurt by a software patent infringement case for an obvious patent.

    This case may be a good example to put in front of Congress to show them how completely broken the current system. First, the inventor wasn't harmed by these "in app purchases", it's a patent holding company trolling. Second, the patent is obvious, overly broad and should never have been approved. Third, the patent in question shows the abuses of the current continuation system here in the US. And forth, it's Joe Sixpack getting sued! Nothing works up Congress and the media like an attack on the little guy / corporation.

  • I suspect one concern Apple might have is what effect attempting to defend iOS developers might have. If they stay out of it, patent trolls like Lodsys will obviously continue to go after potentially infringing small fries in the hopes of browbeating them into settling. But if they enter the fray, it might set a precedent which could pull them into other infringement cases that they might feel less comfortable fighting. At some point they're going to have to draw a line and say either that they will pick an

  • by redshirt (95023)

    Boo to the Eastern District Courts of Texas!

  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @04:30PM (#36324526)
    IANAL, however, the very first thing I'd do is move for immediate dismissal with prejudice on the basis that the Plaintiffs have failed to join indispensable parties (i.e. Apple) to the lawsuit. I don't see any way that Apple cannot be dragged into this suit and you just don't want a friend of the court brief from them.

    Also, consider asking the judge to consolidate the cases so that you can pool your defenses.

    And lastly, file immediate counterclaims for anything you can think of (vexatious litigation, harassment, extortion, barratry, perjury) so that they can't empty your pockets first and then just dismiss the case (w/o prejudice) and run away untouched. As long as you have counterclaims active Lodsys can't unilaterally end the case and leave you holding the bag for your legal expenses.

    This case is far too much like someone finding something patented in MS Visual Studio.NET, and then suing application developers for using VS.NET to develop their own applications.

    Of course, Apple should have already shown up for this just to prove that they're really not as Evil as many think them to be.
  • If they don't join the suit the developers should interplead them in.

  • These patents look like a basic feature for getting feedback from someone running your application. (Or a fax machine in their example). Everything that any self respecting designer would naturally think to include is covered.

    Flush the patent system; it's a turd.

  • by Jerry (6400)

    It was "patently" obvious to everyone that SCO was a proxy for Microsoft's attack against Linux.

    I suspect that Lodsys is a proxy for Microsoft's attack against Apple. The MO is identical -- don't threaten those who can defend themselves, go after the small fry.

    • Could just be so easy as Lodsys going after the small developers to force Apple to pay up. Going straight for Apple will probably drag out for ages in court, while going after the developers will have an immediate chilling effect and forces Apple to at least consider buying out the patent without much of a bargaining position.

  • I don't read legalese, I don't understand what these two patents are about. One patent filed in 2006 seems to be about a way for a customer to specify what they want and get a "custom" designed "something" (The title of the application is customer-based-product design module) and talks about the user sending preferences to the vendor and receiving "preprogrammed interactions". In 2006??? Didn't we have a way for the user to order predefined "programmed interactions" well before 2006? Over a network? The ot
  • It's like they're begging for name mutilation by the angry masses.
  • So we all know why patents are issued - so that instead of keeping knowledge to themselves, companies publish the what, the why and the how of it. This enables someone else to come along and implement this from scratch in the future. That's the whole point of them - you get a limited monopoly in return for making your inventions public.

    So why is it that technically literate people can't actually clearly understand what is meant in these patents ? Why are they allowed to be so obfuscated ?

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