The latest salvo in the ongoing Lodsys patent dispute against third-party App Store developers has just been fired. According to Florian Mueller, Michigan-based company ForeSee Results "has filed a declaratory judgment suit against Lodsys's four patents with the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois." Mueller describes a declaratory judgment as "a pre-emptive strike by those who consider themselves or their customers/partners likely targets of an infringement suit."
ForeSee counts Adidas and Best Buy among its customers, and by pre-emptively filing suit in Illinois, it hopes to protect itself against a Lodsys suit in the patent-holder-friendly Eastern District of Texas. Intriguingly, Mueller notes that ForeSee picked the Northern District of Illinois as the venue because that's where Lodsys' CEO (and sole employee) lives; this essentially means that Lodsys is only "formally" headquartered in East Texas, presumably because that judicial district has a history of decisively siding with patent holders.
If true, by choosing to headquarter its company in the Eastern District of Texas despite the company's business operations actually taking place several states away, it's just one more piece of evidence that Lodsys as a company exists solely to engage in lawsuits based on intellectual property claims. Put more simply: it's Patent Trolling, Inc.
Mueller surmises that if ForeSee's declaratory judgment against Lodsys is successful, it could theoretically help the seven developers that Lodsys has sued thus far argue their case. However, the real problem is that many of these small developers may not be able to afford to defend themselves in such a suit, with their only option being to pay license fees to Lodsys whether its patents are valid or not.
Lodsys has yet to comment on the matter, but given its past history of blog posts on its site, the company will no doubt take great pains to defend its stance -- one which we maintain is indefensible and amounts to gaming the US patent system in an attempt to extort money from third-party iOS developers incapable of defending themselves against its claims. Apple has yet to make any additional response beyond the response it made over two weeks ago, before Lodsys filed suit. If Apple's measured reactions to recent crises is anything to go by, the company is no doubt carefully weighing its options before making its response in the matter.