One of the worst patent trolls out there has been Lodsys, a company that got a few crappy patents from Intellectual Ventures, which it claims covers some rather basic functionality found in lots and lots of mobile apps. It then started to threaten basically everyone if they used things like Apple's own in-app payment offerings, even though Apple (via a deal with Intellectual Ventures) already technically has a "license" to avoid infringing on the patents. It's been pretty clear that it's something of a shakedown business. Lodsys has sent out tons of threatening letters to lots and lots of app developers, but tends to run and hide when a company actually fights back. Lodsys is so petty that it appeared to choose one of its targets because an app developer called them a patent troll -- something that Lodsys' lawyer admitted. Oh, and apparently, Lodsys asks to be paid via a Swedish bank in an effort to avoid paying taxes. And, unfortunately, plenty of app developers do pay, because it's too expensive to fight back. Promising apps are stymied because of this.
And Lodsys just keeps on going. The folks over at the the Application Developers Alliance (disclaimer: in the past they've sponsored some stuff we've done) have been fighting back against Lodsys for quite some time, and have now set up a Lodsys Victim Survey, hoping to collect information and data about Lodsys' threats. Part of the reason that trolls like Lodsys get away with what they're doing is that they can effectively act in secret much of the time. Recipients of threat letters are often quite afraid to speak out, and that leaves them isolated, giving Lodsys much more power. Similarly, with many patent trolls, they seek to include gag orders on settlements (and some patent trolls have even tried to place gag orders on threat letters or early negotiations). Hopefully, collecting useful information and finding others who have been similarly targeted, it will be easier to fight back against egregious patent trolls like Lodsys. If you, or someone you know, has been threatened by Lodsys, please consider filling out the survey.