Lodsys is a shell company that “owns” in-app purchasing and wants small developers to pay it a license fee. Apple stepped in to put a stop to this but a Texas court, known for its sympathy to patent trolls, booted Apple from court.

Norwegian Troll
photo: Flickr / Jacob Bøtter

It’s been another dark month for America’s troubled patent system. The latest news relates to Lodsys, the shell company which claims to own “in-app purchasing,” and which has been putting the screws to app makers for a share of their revenue.

Lodsys has already sued or threatened hundreds (and likely thousands) of app makers. The situation is serious enough that Apple, warning that 6 million iOS developers are at risk, asked a Texas judge in 2011 to let it participate in a trial where Lodsys is suing the app makers.

Apple says it can join in because it already bought a license for the same patents from Intellectual Ventures, the mother-troll that gave the patents to Lodsys. In Apple’s view, its license should shield the small app developers.

Unfortunately, Apple has just been booted out of court. As Ars Technica explains, the federal judge overseeing the Texas case ruled that Apple’s motion only applies to seven specific app maker defendants — and Lodsys has just reached settlements with all seven.

The ruling amounts to a technicality since other iOS developers are still in Lodsys’s cross-hairs in the very same case — and the question of whether Apple’s license protects app developers is still a live issue.

So what happened? Why did the judge refuse to even hear Apple? The outcome is likely tied to the fact that the case was taking place in the federal district for Eastern Texas — a cluster of small towns that turned patent trolling into a major cottage industry, welcoming lawyers from across the country to sue app developers and everyone else.


The upshot, as Ars notes, is that Lodsys can continue its rampage as Apple tries to get its foot back in the door. Meanwhile, the app developers best hope for now may be Martha Stewart — who became annoyed by Lodsys and last week sued to crush its patents in Wisconsin.

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  1. Sounds like Texas to me.

    1. I would point out that this is a federal judge, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. If this were a state judge, putting an end to this patent troll nonsense would be trivial–Texas judges are elected.

  2. I would point out that this is a federal judge, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. If this were a state judge, putting an end to this patent troll nonsense would be trivial–Texas judges are elected.

  3. Sorry for the double post!

  4. Texas should just secede.

  5. The FTC is now examining the legal rights of patent trolls, in an effort to clean up patent law written in the dark ages. Trademark hoarders and patent trolls should be a thing of the past in 2015.

    Also, Apple is not known to lay down on judgements, especially at the state level.

  6. Welcome to NZ where we have relegated software patents to the dark ages.

  7. The wild, wild, west!

  8. Srihari Yamanoor Monday, September 30, 2013

    Texas and Apple – made for each other.

  9. Michael W. Perry Monday, September 30, 2013

    This isn’t a “Texas” court. It’s the long-notorious East Texas Federal Court and the judge who booted out Apple is James Gilstrap, a recent (2011) Obama appointee, apparently from Florida although he was Texas educated and certainly knew what he was doing when he came to East Texas. With four Bush appointees (out of ten judges), the court was getting better. Now it’s going downhill again to the delight of trolls like Lodsys. Now they’ll continue to be able to go after small developers in a distant court.

    For those for whom this inspired a ‘hate minute’ directed at Texas, you’re now under notice that your hate minute has to be directed at Obama. Go to it.

    This judge’s ruling illustrates the smelly underbelly of American politics. Democrats are owned, lock, stock and barrel, by lawyers. Small businessmen play a similar role in Republican politics. And both parties rather abjectly serve the interests of large corporations, something that’s known as crony capitalism.

    Note too that, while that ArsTechnica mentions “Texas” six times in its article, it never mentions that this judge was appointed by Obama. Bias like that, political and scientific, is why I dropped my RSS feed for Arstechnia months ago.

  10. Chaminda de Silva Monday, September 30, 2013

    Can we create a separate country with Texas, and put all the patent trolls there? :-p

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