Rovio, Maker Of Angry Birds, Sued For Patent Violations

Posted on: Monday, 25 July 2011, 11:00 CDT

Rovio, the maker of the hugely popular Angry Birds app, is being sued by a tiny American company which claims it owns the patents on the method used to buy new levels for the game, the Telegraph reports.

The move by Lodsys, over the type of app payment system being used, has already put off many UK developers from selling their mobile apps in the US for fear of possible patent infringement or other legal matters.

Lodsys, a one-man company based in Marshall, Texas, filed the patent lawsuit against the Finnish company in a Texas court, and also has begun suing some of the biggest names in mobile gaming, including EA, Atari, Square Enix, and Take-Two Interactive.

The growth of lawsuits in the US by so-called “patent trolls” — which do not make anything but simply demand payments after asserting intellectual property rights — threatens to shut down the booming mobile app market, which is expected to be worth more than 4.5 billion dollars this year and double that by next.

“The US patent system allows software implementations of ideas to be patented, which differs significantly from the European Union, although the European Parliament has been considering aligning patent rights with the US,” according to Startup Smart, a website for new businesses and entrepreneurs.

Lodsys owns patents granted between 1999 and 2009, and first filed claims against seven companies last May. it has since removed one claim — against Wulven Games — but added Rovio’s versions of Angry Birds for iPhone and Android.

The move shows that Lodsys is “not afraid of suing deep-pocketed app developers,” Florian Mueller, a specialist in intellectual property lawsuits, told The Guardian. Lodsys is also suing computer giant HP, as well as clothing company Adidas, retailer best Buy and the new York Times.

Mueller pointed out that bringing Angry Birds into the case makes it clear that Lodsys is going after developers writing apps for phones using Android software, which now make up the best-selling smartphones.

Lodsys is asking for injunctions and damages in its complaint, although the company has yet to publish an update on its blog to explain the decision to add the five new companies in its lawsuit.

Apple inc. is likely to get involved in the case on behalf of its developers. Apple filed a motion in June to intervene in the case, claiming that its existing license for the patents in question also covers iOS developers — a claim Lodsys disputes.

“While the developers will likely be interested in resolving this case as quickly and inexpensively as possible, Apple’s interest is in protecting its broader license rights with respect to thousands of App developers for Apple products who may be the subject of future Lodsys lawsuits or threats,” said Apple’s motion, making it clear that the company did not expect the small independent developers originally sued by Lodsys to be able to fight the company in court.

While many Europeans companies are thinking about removing their apps over lawsuit fears, it is unlikely for Rovio and EA to follow suit. Games are the most lucrative category in app stores, with iOS remaining the lead mobile platform for the vast majority of mobile game firms.

  • Rovio
  • Lodsys

Source: RedOrbit Staff & Wire Reports

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