Rovio, the maker of the iconic mobile game Angry Birds, has been swept up in an ongoing patent war that has hit many app developers and embroiled Apple in a bitter legal exchange.
Lodsys, a Texas-based patent licensing company,filed an amended complaint with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, which names a number of other big games makers including Atari, EA, and Take-Two Interactive.
The Finnish-based Rovio is singled out in being hit for its game on Google’s Android as well as Apple’s iOS. The company said recently that Angry Birds had been downloaded more than 300 million times.
Rovio said it had not received any direct contact regarding the complaint. The company’s chief executive, Mikael Hed, said: “We have not received any notification from Lodsys so I cannot comment on it.”
Lodsys did not respond to our requests for comment.
The dispute centers around four patents that Lodsys owns and has been very vigorous in pursuing.
According to the suit, Rovio was infringing U.S. Patent 7,620,565. The official patent, described it as: “A network…that interacts with a user, gathers information from the user, communicates the information to the product’s vendor, and receives new pre-programmed interactions from the vendor for future interactions with the user.”
The patent was originally filed by Dan Abelow, a Harvard graduate. He told The Guardiannewspaper: “The idea was that if you’re sitting and holding in your hand a product and you use it, why shouldn’t it be aware of your behavior, digitally, and conduct your needs to the vendor, who could interact with you?”
This has been interpreted as involving in-app upgrades, such as going from a free to a paid-for service.
The company has so far taken out actions against 37 companies claiming that they infringe its patents. It has also sent out letters to developers, which the company has described as“‘notice’ letters informing companies of usage and requesting to engage in a licensing discussion.”
Lodsys’s persistent defense of its patent suite has had a chilling effect on some developers who have begun to remove their apps from the U.S. app stores. U.K.-based developer Simon Maddox tweeted earlier this month that he was pulling all his apps on all platforms from the U.S..
Mr. Maddox, an iOS developer since 2008, said he had not been contacted by Lodsys, but was preemptively withdrawing his apps. “I am just a developer”, he said. “I can’t afford to get a lawyer involved.” He said he knew developers in the U.K. who had received letters from U.S. legal firms.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas has acquired something of a reputation for patent lawsuits, most famously that between Microsoft and a small Canadian development house, i4i which at one point threatened to prevent Microsoft from selling any copies of Word in the U.S.