If you follow patent litigation news, the name "Lodsys" has the same kind of weight as, say, Kim Jong Un or Robert Ford: when you see it, you just know something crazy is going on. But it looks like the legendary patent troll has fallen on hard times, as its website domain has been allowed to expire. The domain is currently being held by Register.com, which has not re-listed it for sale. Perhaps the one-man company and overly eager patent holder and his lawyers have run out of lawsuits - we can only hope.
If you're not familiar with Lodsys, it is (or perhaps was) a Texas-based LLC formed exclusively for the holding and "protection" of four US patents originally awarded to one Daniel Abelow. It's really a shell company that's a small part of something called Intellectual Ventures, an industrialized clearinghouse for patents (over 30,000 so far) that does little else besides sue, settle, and license. All four of Abelow's patents are related to nebulous web and software ideas like "customer-based product design module" and "methods and systems for gathering information from units of a commodity across a network." One of these has been extended to include - at least according to Lodsys - the idea of in-app purchases, in all permutations, on all platforms. Check out this post for a good breakdown of Lodsys' near-insane claims.
You might think that such broad patents could be applied to almost any website or application, and Lodsys LLC would agree with that assessment. Between 2011 and 2013 the company sued everyone from General Motors, Canon, and Motorola to tiny iOS and Android app developers. Some of the LLC's more notable suits include Angry Birds developer Rovio and Apparatus developer Bithack. Smaller companies have settled with Lodsys for undisclosed sums, or licensed the patents at well below the usual rate. But the actions of Lodsys drew calls for invalidation and summary judgments from the likes of Apple, Google, and Oracle - strange bedfellows to say the least.
"See this picture? This is a picture of me extorting all of your money via the USPTO. Hand it over."
The killing blow seems to have come from Kaspersky Lab. The well-known security software vendor called Lodsys' patent bluff, refusing a settlement or licensing deal and insisting on a civil trial by jury. When push came to shove in October 2013, Lodsys folded, dismissing the case with prejudice (basically a legal way of saying "you're wrong, but we're done fighting"). After that, Lodsys has not issued any new lawsuits anywhere in the United States.
The last Lodsys patent technically expired in 2012 - the LLC had been suing based on past infringement for over a year. While we don't have any kind of inside information, it looks like the Kaspersky suit and Lodsys' unwillingness to put its patents in front a judge and jury (facing possible invalidation) finally ended the fight. With no one even bothering to renew the domain, we can move on to the next patent troll or hope for a reform of the United States' desperately broken patent system.