22
Jun
troll-web

Update: Cory Trese's infringement notice was apparently sent to him by mistake - whatever that means. He received a call from Lodsys stating they'd like all the materials they sent returned. What's happened? Who knows, but as someone in our team chat room sarcastically stated - maybe they forgot a zero somewhere.

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We received this tweet from Cory Trese yesterday, developer of a game called Star Traders 2, in regard to a settlement offer he received from Lodsys LLC (a patent troll shell corporation):

startraders

This isn't a friendly letter. In fact, it's probably downright terrifying as a prospect to most developers, and understandably so. Lodsys has essentially been sending extortion letters to developers claiming they infringe on a patent that probably isn't even related to smartphones. The claim, at its core, asserts that Lodsys's patent (No. 7,222,078) encompasses most forms of in-app purchasing on any smartphone platform.

The patent itself clearly has nothing to do with in-app purchases on smartphones. But, there is an argument it could be applied that way (what that argument is, I don't know).

When you receive a settlement offer, you're basically given two choices: accept the offer, or get sued. The offer usually has a limited acceptance window (2 weeks, a month - whatever), so as to light a virtual fire under scared developers' rear-ends. The offer being given to developers that we've seen so far requires a lump sum payment (think thousands of dollars) - though royalty offers could be made as well, in the case of more profitable apps.

Without assistance (or at least, reassurance) from Google, individual developers are in a jam - one they should never have been in to start with. Developers are, as Mr. Trese insightfully put it, being sued for little more than using the Android SDK. That's not right. Google knows it's not right - and it needs to make a statement. This isn't just a legal issue, it's people's livelihoods being blindsided by one of the truly abominable blights upon the American patent system.

So, Google, let's make sure no one has to pay up or lawyer up without a damn good reason - do what's right and protect the developer community Android would be nothing without.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Ricardo

    Does ignoring a letter always result in getting sued? What happens to developers who just ignore them?

    • lincthra

      Indeed. Given that Android is Linux-based, developers tend to come from a certain subset of people... a subset that have prior experience with UK lawyers and the like sending out illegal threats, I could see the majority of us rolling our eyes, going "here we go again" and dumping it in the shredder.

    • David Ruddock

      Ricardo,

      So long as you received the letter. Not responding amounts to refusing the offer to settle, and yes, it seems Lodsys is willing to sue developers who won't pay up. They've already sued a number of iOS developers.

      Does it guarantee you'll get sued? Nope. But if you're a US-based developer and have an app that's bringing in any significant amount of cash, it's definitely worth talking to an attorney if you've received such a notice.

  • Jim

    Cory should post that package documents on the internet so we can all see what those trolls are trying to do.

    • Jon Garrett

      Why are people trolls because they want to get paid for something they created? I dont understand that.

      What would you do if you felt you had a legitimate claim?

      • modplan

        They did not create it. They bought a patent filed in the 90s that shows a landline phone with buttons on it that you can use to purchase physical items (like a pizza) from your phone without having to call.

        That is why they are a troll. They buy up old patents, try to apply them to modern technology, and then extort money from small developers (never large ones) by threatening them.

  • Somebody

    Patent trolls' sole source of income is through the work of others. They don't "make" money unless the developer on the receiving end accepts the settlement or goes through a lawsuit.

    My guess is they send these letters to so many small developers they include a settlement option to save time and anyone who doesn't settle they sue. They never go after the big ones like Google or Apple because they both have the lawyers to fight.

    The settlement option also gives them better chances of continuing. I'd think if a lawsuit gets thrown out it could be used as a precedent to throw out more.

    That said, lets fix the patent system and rid the world of these parasites. They only take from the world and give it nothing.

    • wpfn

      Couldn't agree more! Amen!

    • jonny

      your absolutily on point. The fact the larger companies pay instead of squashing them makes it even worse. Zynga been doing in-app purchases for how long , they are rolling in money but they are not being sued . Its basically a legal version of the Mob charging protection money.

      what gets me is almost all these cases are in filled in East district court of Texas, i find that very curious.

  • Josh H

    Google should provide legal assistance to app devs. Then maybe these scumbags would back off.

  • Sorin

    Smarthphone apps are only extensions that help us reach the web. For example, a Facebook app only help ass accessing facebook.com. But now you can reach the web directly, with HTML5, so developers can create web apps instead. There are few things left a web app cannot do on Android. Things like running in the background, or accessing certain phone features, like the contact list etc. I think by the time Lodsys could win in court, you'll see a dramatic switch to web apps in the next year or two, especially with the launch of Ice Cream this fall and with the introduction of Chromebooks.

  • Joshua Banks

    Isn't Apple fighting them right now on behalf the iOS developers?

    • David Ruddock

      Apple is motioning to intervene in a suit, yes. The intervention will probably be approved, and a settlement will probably happen.

      • Joshua Banks

        Apple has already settled with them a long time ago and they are trying to say that the developers are included in their settlement.

  • DRF

    If you google 7222078 (google.com/patents), you'll see it and can judge it for yourself. It acknowledges that it combines "prior art" but claims it's novel. I (a non-lawyer) couldn't see how it was worth granting a patent, but granting a patent is not really a judgement of worth, etc. The actual claims seem to be related to a way to build survey questions into a device being sold, and having that device send the information back to home base. Didn't sound really novel, and a real stretch to apply it to Android or iPad apps.
    There was another patent in this whole farce I looked at, and I couldn't really tell what it was claiming, although it sounded like they could apply it to almost anything.

  • vijay

    All type android apps are available following blog http://androidapplications2011.blogspot.com/

  • http://www.gifts-solved.co.uk Suggy

    Doesn't the real problem come from the patent office's failure to differentiate true novel inventions? The US in particular has allowed companies to patent what is no more than commonsense - like the idea of saving a users details so they can checkout without filling them in everytime. These kinds of patents are not accepted in Europe yet, though (god-forbid) there are moves a foot to introduce them.

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