You have to have a perverse sort of admiration for a company that seems utterly impervious to public opinion. Last week, the much-reviled patent-holding company Lodsys-derided as a patent troll by the dozens of large and small defendants it has sued for infringing a quartet of broadly-worded patents-once again responded to a slew of defensive declaratory judgment actions by going on offense. Lodsys amended its East Texas infringement complaint against smartphone app developers to include, among others, Rovio, maker of the (gulp!) wildly-popular game Angry Birds.
In response, the crowd source anti-troll prior art service Article One has renewed its $5000 bounty for anyone who can come up with research to invalidate the Lodsys patents that have prompted this litigation explosion. Save the Angry Birds! is Article One's new rallying cry against Lodsys. Interestingly, Article One CEO Cheryl Milone, a former Clifford Chance lawyer, told OTC that she can't reveal who has put up the cash for the bounty on the Lodsys patents. OTC has a hunch that a certain Cupertino-based company may be behind the offer.
The folks at Apple have stayed pretty quiet about Lodsys since Apple lawyers from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett filed a motion to intervene in Lodsys's initial case against app developers, though the company did file a not-very-illuminating amended answer to Lodsys on Tuesday. Apple's early June motion to intervene and its subsequent answer to Lodsys's complaint assert that Apple's license from Lodsys "expressly" extends to third parties, including developers creating apps for Apple devices. Curiously, though, Apple insisted on filing the license under seal, which makes it impossible to evaluate the strength of its claim.
Lodsys and its lawyers at Kelley, Donion, Gill Huck & Goldfarb certainly haven't backed down as a result of Apple's intervention attempt. The troll has expanded its licensing demand letter campaign to Europe, pitching licensing opportunities along with laudatory language about Lodsys founder Daniel Abelow and a reminder that "Dan" has been to various Ivy League schools.
The Lodsys letters have prompted a handful of overseas app developers to declare they're pulling all of their apps from U.S. app stores in order to protect themselves from the Lodsys patent brouhaha. One London-based developer announced his departure in a tweet that concluded, "Screw you, Lodsys."
Nevertheless, the Lodsys patents are unlikely to spark a significant exodus from U.S. app stores. That's because they dwarf the competition in terms of size and revenue, said Nick Iannone, who organizes an app developer meet-up in San Francisco. Iannone added that app enterprises are typically one or two person operations that are unable to fight off a patent suit, which intensifies the pressure on Apple to help developers fight Lodsys' claims.
Like everyone else in this case, lawyers for Lodsys are staying mum. Chris Huck of Kelley Donion would only tell OTC to consult the Lodsys blog. The blog's latest entry is from May 31 and expounds on why Apple's license rights do not apply to third parties.
(Reporting by Jeff John Roberts)