Wikipedia describes Lodsys as, “a patent licensing company located in Marshall, Texas.” So far, so good, except the link from “patent licensing company” is a little less flattering. The term links to “patent troll,” defined as, “a person or company that enforces its patents against one or more alleged infringers in a manner considered (by the party using the term) unduly aggressive or opportunistic, often with no intention to manufacture or market the patented invention.”
It’s a fair description of that company’s relationship with Apple.
Lodsys has been claiming that four patents which it licenses to Apple do not cover independent developers who create apps for Apple products. Apple fired back, claiming that its licenses gave developers “undisputable” freedom to use the patented products. In a letter to one of the developers, Apple Senior Vice President and General Counsel write that, “Apple is undisputedly licensed to these (patents) and the Apple App Makers are protected by that license.”
Lodsys disagrees, but rather than go up against a giant like Apple, it is taking on the independent developers instead. It is now suing them for infringing Lodsys’s patents. The want to stake their claim in a Texas court, since it is notably more friendly to companies such as Lodsys. So sure of winning its case, Lodsys even promised “to pay $1,000 to each entity to whom we have sent an infringement notice for infringement on the iOS platform, or that we send a notice to in the future, if it turns out that the scope of Apple’s existing license rights apply to fully license you.” With the number of independent developers out there, that could add up to a hefty sum. CNET reports that Lodsys has already sued several developers, including Combay, Iconfactory, Illusion Labs AB, Shovelmate, Quickoffice, Wulven Games, and developer Richard Shinderman.
Apple is not the only company being targeted by Lodsys. They are also targeting Google’s Android and even Mac OS X.
Lodsys says that its particular focus on Apple is a result of Apple’s response to its CEO and Apple’s threat of a counter-suit against the company. The timing, however, is not to Lodsys’s advantage. Apple’s annual developer conference WWDC2011, is scheduled for next week in San Francisco. There will be lots of angry developers there if Lodsys persists.