Lodsys is suing Angry Birds maker Rovio for patent violations, an example of patent disputes’ growing reach into the mobile gaming realm.
Lodsys claims the Finnish-based company violated patents that concern purchasing new levels inside Angry Birds games, which people collectively download more than one million times a day.
With the suit, the birds have become the latest target in a rise of patent-related legal action in the tech industry, with the strong software interconnections between apps, devices and platforms now providing a point of attack for copyright allegations.
Angry Birds debuted as a mobile game, but spread quickly onto many platforms, including browsers and consoles, and there were reports Rovio was developing a movie and even considering an IPO. Should Lodsys win its suit, it may impact all areas of Rovio’s business and possibly hurt the company’s bottom line.
In the U.S., where Lodsys filed suit against Rovio, the system allows for broader claims based on software, preventing many European game developers from launching in the U.S. and causing those that have to reevaluate the position. The patent system in Europe requires a greater threshold of evidence, asking plaintiffs to exhibit physical effects of patent infringement.
Lodsys is no stranger to patent lawsuits, as its well-publicised suit against seven iOS developers has drawn Apple into the fray. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company came to the defence of its app developers last month, arguing the company’s patents protect its programmers. Apple, which already pays the Texas-based company to use its patents, claims they extend to all their party developers. Lodsys disagrees.
Back in the U.S., Lodsys isn’t the only company bringing patent infringement suits against gaming developers. Ohio-based Impulse Technology has filed a complaint alleging Microsoft’s Kinect controller infringes on seven of its technology patents. In addition, the company is suing Electronic Arts, Konami and Sega for developing Xbox 360 games that use Kinect.
Impulse Technology is seeking a permanent injunction to block the import and sale of Microsoft’s Kinect, which has sold about 10 million Kinect controllers to date.
News of patent lawsuits plaguing the gaming industry follow similar activity in the smartphone market, where stakes are high and lawsuits often lucrative. If smartphone patent litigation is any indication, gamers should brace themselves for tough times ahead.