updated 12:50 pm EDT, Sat August 13, 2011
Google asks USPTO to invalidate Lodsys patents
Google has at last taken steps to try and protect Android developers from the wide-ranging Lodsys lawsuit, the company's general counsel Kent Walker stated Saturday. The company has asked the USPTO to reexamine the validity of two patents for in-app purchases that "should never have been issued," according to Walker. The approach described to Wired would either narrow the scope of the complaints or invalidate the patents entirely, likely forcing Lodsys to either limit the reach of lawsuits or toss them out entirely.
The motion could also lead to a stay in ongoing cases, although this isn't considered likely. Eastern District of Texas courts, which tend to favor plaintiffs in patent violation cases, have historically granted stays a fifth of the time. Google's request is inter partes, or one which will involve it directly in the full process, and will very likely see at least the USPTO reexamination.
Walker didn't say why Google hadn't motioned to intervene in the Lodsys case more directly, much like Apple did two months ago. Both have licenses from Lodsys and had assumed their deals would cover developers. Only Apple's motion, however, lets it actively defend developers that in many cases don't have the resources to fight back.
The involvement is still an important step for Google, which in the past few weeks has finally shown an interest in defending itself against patent disputes. It recently bought 1,030 IBM patents and has gone on a PR offensive against those who had been suing Android partners. Google has been accused of knowingly conceding bids on Novell and Nortel patent pools that could have given it leverage to defend its partners.
Numerous companies beyond Google have also been trying to independently invalidate Lodsys' patents through the faster process of a declaratory judgment. The non-practicing patent holder has been widely criticized for claiming ownership of obvious technologies like in-app purchases and online surveys while also trying to focus on developers that wouldn't have the resources to challenge the patents.