Who’s a patent troll now? Oracle joins Google and Apple in Lodsys patent fights

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This one goes in the I’m-not-sure-what-to think category. Oracle, the company that just failed in its attempt to sue Google for violating dubious-sounding patents relating to Java technologies acquired in the Sun takeover, is now suing Lodsys, which has somewhat successfully sued app developers and website owners for violating its own dubious-sounding patents.

In other words, pot, meet kettle.

Patent trolls are companies that typically do not produce anything, preferring to simply acquire patents and launch lawsuits against companies that do. So Oracle cannot, strictly speaking, be classified as a patent troll. On the other hand, there are few companies more trollish than Lodsys. The company, which produces no software of its own, has filed suit against many companies, alleging, for example, that in-app purchases violates one of its patents.

Oracle’s beef? Lodsys has also targeted Oracle clients who use a web-chat feature that Lodsys believe violates a patent for — in the language of the US Patent Office — a “customer-based product module.” Essentially, it appears to be a system of embedding communication abilities within software, which could potentially be used for client support.

Oracle is stepping up for its clients, biting the bullet to protect its customers. Apple and Google have done the same thing on the in-app purchases side.

Lodsys, of course, believes it is on the side of the angels. The company’s website (which was down for some time this afternoon) claims that its inventions help companies in “reducing costsincreasing customer satisfaction, increasing revenue, providing customer data and impressions.” This may come as something of a surprise to those who have been hit up by Lodsys letters requesting cash.

The Oracle lawsuit is a good thing, in that if Lodsys’ teeth can be blunted, it will be less able to pursue small developers and software companies for processes that seem more common sense than patentable inventions. For those who think the patent system needs a complete reboot, however, it seems odd to be cheering for Oracle.

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