MARSHALL, Texas — A number of online adult companies have received patent infringement notices from a company called Lodsys, which owns a collection of patents that purport to provide interactive online advertising, subscription models and data collection, among other systems.
The letters to the adult companies, which were delivered by FedEx, say that they have been infringing on U.S. Patent No. 7,222,078, which includes "methods and systems for gathering information from units of a commodity across a network."
According to the patent's abstract, "In an exemplary system, information is received at a central location from different units of a commodity. The information is generated from two-way local interactions between users of the different units of the commodity and a user interface in the different units of the commodity. The interactions elicit from respective users their perceptions of the commodity."
The patent, filed in December 2003, was invented by Daniel Abelow who, according to his website, has licensed patented inventions to Apple, Google, Microsoft, Verizon, Nokia and 200 other companies.
One of those companies, Apple, publicly blasted Lodsys last month over its U.S. Patent No. 7,222,078 claims.
Apple says iOS developers received the same FedEx packages that included legal threats if they didn’t pay Lodsys to license a patent covering in-app purchasing and other app-related matters. (Macworld published Apple's response directed at Lodsys CEO Mark Small here.)
Apple asked that "Lodsys immediately withdraw all notice letters sent to Apple App makers and cease its false assertions that the App Makers’ use of licensed Apple products and services in any way constitute infringement of any Lodsys patent."
But in a response to Apple's letter, Lodsys said it "carefully considered this issue and consulted several legal experts to consider Apple’s claims" and is adamant about the claims.
"We stand firm and restate our previous position that it is the third-party developers that are responsible for the infringement of Lodsys’ patents and they are responsible for securing the rights for their applications," Lodsys replied in a blog. "Developers relying on Apple’s letter do so to their own detriment and are strongly urged to review Apple’s own developer agreements to determine the true extent of Apple’s responsibilities to them."
Lodsys' CEO, Small, told XBIZ he couldn't comment on the letters sent to online adult companies, saying, "We made a decision not to do press and apply our resources to licensing discussions, and we want to be consistent/fair in our policy."
Nonetheless, Lodsys has filed several other suits over patents unrelated to U.S. Patent No. 7,222,078.
Those suits have been filed at U.S. District Court in Marshall, Texas, by the same attorney suing 18 adult entertainment studios on behalf of InMotion Imagery Technologies, which claims it owns a patent relating to video-indexing processes that use thumbnail images during DVD navigation.
The federal court in Marshall is a popular one for patent lawsuits. Attorneys say that quick trials and plaintiff-friendly juries are the big draw there. So are the Texas-sized verdicts sometimes handed to winners.
Patent cases are heard faster in Marshall than in many other courts, forcing some defendants to buckle under the pressure of time when trying to sort out complex infringement cases.
And while only about five percent make it to trial in Marshall, patent holders win 78 percent of the time, compared with an average of 59 percent nationwide, according to LegalMetric, a company that tracks patent litigation.