Google moves to help developers in patent lawsuit

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Google's stepped in to try and defend Android developers from patent-holding firm Lodsys, calling for two patents to be reexamined by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Lodsys is suing 11 iOS and Android app developers for allegedly infringing the patents, which cover in-app payment systems. Its action, which started back in May, now has it targeting both small app developers and heavyweight games companies including Atari, Rovio, Square Enix and Electronic Arts.

Apple has already made efforts to support its own app developers from the action, attempting to step in as the defendant itself, as well as filing a counter-claim asserting that the developers are covered by its own license for the technology.

But this is Google's first attempt to protect its own developers. If the patent is re-examined, it could lead to its being thrown out altogether - which is unlikely - or to its claims being narrowed. It could also slow down the litigation.

However, patent expert Florian Mueller says that Google's actions are unlikely to have much of an effect.

"While I agree with Google's senior vice president and general counsel Kent Walker that those patents should never have been issued, I don't consider those reexamination requests - unless they will be accompanied by more forceful and useful measures very soon - a serious commitment to supporting Android app developers against trolls," he says.

"If this is all that Google does, it's too little, too late, and calling it 'half-hearted' would be an overstatement."

The odds are, he says, that the re-examination request won't delay the litigation at all. He believes that the app developers concerned would probably be wise to bite the bullet and pay up for a license agreement.