Lodsys' patent attack now targets Best Buy, Adidas

Lodsys broadens a patent infringement case to include several big-name companies outside the tech realm, including Sam's Club, CVS, and Best Western.

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Stephen Shankland
2 min read

Lodsys, the company pursuing high-profile patent infringement cases against many in the tech industry, has broadened its legal attack to include Adidas, Best Buy, and other big-name companies.

Lodsys' previous targets include iOS and Android developers, Samsung, Hewlett-Packard, Brother, and Motorola. Now the list is a lot longer, with a Friday filing naming Sam's Club, Best Western, Black & Decker, the Container Store, the Teaching Company, Vitamin Shoppe, Vegas.com, Adidas, CVS, and Best Buy.

The move isn't a total surprise. Lodsys sent Adidas a letter on April 19 saying the sports shoe and apparel maker had infringed four patents. And last week, a Michigan company called ForeSee Results filed a declaratory judgment suit against Lodsys. ForeSee names Adidas and Best Buy as clients that have received Lodsys letters asserting that they use technology covered by the patents.

The suit, spotted by Florian Mueller of the FOSS Patents blog, accuses the companies of infringing U.S. patent 5,999,908, "Customer-Based Product Design Module." It also accuses Black & Decker, the Vitamin Shoppe, and Sam's Club of infringing patent 7,222,078, "Methods and Systems for Gathering Information from Units of a Commodity Across a Network."

Lodsys is what's known as a nonpracticing entity, or NPE, which means a company that licenses patents but doesn't actually have any other business. Less charitably, they're called patent trolls. They're hard for defendants to deal with: because their operations don't use much technology, a defendant isn't likely to be able to threaten a countersuit accusing the NPE of infringing the defendant's patents.

(Which, by the way, is why an IBM application seeking to patent the process of using a computer to make money from a patent portfolio is so intriguing. If granted, Big Blue could potentially have an infringement counterclaim against NPEs.)

Lodsys has had some success licensing its patents. In its letter to Adidas, it said those who've licensed its patents include Apple, Microsoft, Adobe Systems, eBay, Google, Nokia, Verizon, Sony, Nvidia, American Express, and Intuit.

In the case of Google and Apple, though, licensing hasn't been enough. Lodsys has sued developers using those companies' mobile operating systems--Apple's iOS and Google's Android--for infringing patents Lodsys says it has for in-app purchases.

Update 1:16 a.m. June 13: Don't read too much into earlier licensing agreements as precedent. Mueller believes several large companies got licenses to patents when they were temporarily owned by another licensing organization, Intellectual Ventures, that owns tens of thousands of patents.

The new Lodsys complaint is below.

Lodsys Complaint Against Adidas BestBuy Et Al