Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wolfram Alpha sues Lodsys to defend its iPad app

Wolfram Alpha and Wolfram Research jointly filed a declaratory judgment action against Lodsys. It's the eighth one so far. I had mentioned the first six "DJ" actions on this blog. The seventh one was recently brought by RightNow Technologies (complaint available on Scribd). And today I saw the latest one. Just like the most recent ones by other companies, Wolfram also filed in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, where Lodsys CEO Mark Small apparently lives.

Wolfram's DJ action is the most narrowly focused one. Wolfram doesn't ask the court to declare Lodsys's patents invalid. The two Wolfram companies just want the court to find that they don't infringe any valid Lodsys patent claim.

One of the exhibits to the complaint is the assertion letter Lodsys sent to Wolfram. It went out in late April and is addressed to a company named "Mathmatica". Actually, Mathematica (note the "e", which Lodsys consistently omits throughout its letter and claim chart) is a product, not a company, but it was published by Wolfram Research, which is affiliated with Wolfram Alpha, the company that runs the namesake search engine. Lodsys's claim charts relates to the iPad app of that search engine.

Here's the erroneous header of Lodsys's letter:

The claim chart relates to the Wolfram Alpha iPad app (click to enlarge):

Besides the company name, Lodsys also mispelled the city name: it's Champaign, not Shampaign, as Twitter user @iamtabu noted.

The following excerpt from the claim chart shows that Lodsys claims the basic idea of a feedback form infringes its '078 patent, the same patent to which most -- if not all -- of its claim charts sent to app developers related (again, click to enlarge):

Lodsys then notes that the feedback provided by a user is stored at a central location (again, click to enlarge):

It's not clear to me from the claim charts whether this feedback is stored on Wolfram's own servers or on Apple's servers, but I guess it's Wolfram's own servers, in which case Apple's possible intervention wouldn't be relevant to this particular dispute.

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