The internet search giant has stepped up to help defend Android App developers in an ongoing dispute between smartphone application developers and the East Texas-based patent firm Lodsys. This will be the first public view Google has made to defend Android coders from a patent troll lawsuit.
Google filed a request with the United States Patent and Trademark office Friday to reëxamine two of the patents; 7,222,078 and 7,620,565. Google’s request calls for the USPTO to check the validity of the patent’s claims.
“We’ve asked the US Patent Office to reëxamine two Lodsys patents that we believe should never have been issued,” Google senior vice president and general counsel Kent Walker said in a statement. “Developers play a critical part in the Android ecosystem and Google will continue to support them.”
With Google entering the battle, and if the examination request is approved, it could be a key part in saving developers and development studios from large litigation fees.
“Reexaminations are often times a tool used to stay ongoing litigation,” said Julie Samuels, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit digital rights advocacy group. “It’s much, much cheaper than federal litigation, which on average costs between two and five million dollars.”
The problem began when Lodsys issued a series of ‘cease and desist’ letters to iOS and Android app developers in May. The letters threaten legal action within a 21 day period if developers did not negotiate to pay Lodsys a licensing fee for the use of the technology they claim to have a patent for. The company is now suing 11 defendants, ranging from small app development studios to major game companies such as Electronic Arts, Atari and Square Enix.
Both Google and Apple have licenses for Lodsys’ patent, but since Lodsys is going after third party developers the obvious potential outcome could greatly affect how developers would feel about making apps for the two platforms with the looming threat of litigation hanging over their heads.
What is surprising is how long it took for Google to enter the game, this has been their first public sign of defense since the problem started months ago, unlike Apple who immediately began arguing and fighting the patent with claims that Apple provides the in-app billing technology to its developers and retains its own license for the patents in question. Which Apple argues its license extends to coders who use Apple’s technologies as well.
Google has made it clear they are ready to join however, by filing the request “inter partes” which means that Google will be involved in the preceding’s throughout the entire process. However, even if the USPTO grants the reëxamination request, there is no guarantee that the court will grant a stay. The request filling is a different strategy than the one taken by Apple and could prove to work out in the end for all involved.