Lodsys Hits iOS, Android Developers with Patent Lawsuits

| News

Lodsys versus the worldLodsys, the patent holding company that recently gained notoriety with the Apple community for threatening to sue independent developers over in-app purchases, has gone ahead and filed lawsuits against several coders earlier than expected. Seven developers were targeted, including companied that code for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, as well as Android, and even Mac OS X.

The lawsuits came in response to a letter Apple sent to Lodsys requesting the company abandon its legal actions against developers. “Lodsys chose to move its litigation timing to an earlier date than originally planned, in response to Apple’s threat, in order to preserve its legal options,” the patent holder stated in a blog post.

Lodsys set its sites on independent developers over claims that Apple and Google’s licenses for its patents don’t cover third-party products. The patents in question relate in-app purchases and upgrades.

Apple’s legal team didn’t agree with the company’s interpretation of the patent agreement, so it stepped in and sent a letter to Lodsys CEO Mark Small stating that its patent license clearly covers third party developers.

“Apple is undisputedly licensed to these patent and the Apple App Makers are protected by that license. There is no basis for Lodsys’ infringement allegations against Apple’s App Makers,” Apple’s letter stated. “Apple intends to share this letter and the information set out herein with its App Makers and is fully prepared to defend Apple’s license rights.”

Lodsys wasn’t, however, impressed with Apple’s argument. “Unfortunately for Developers, Apple’s claim of infallibility has no discernable basis in law or fact,” the company said.

“Before, during and after these interactions, Lodsys has carefully considered this issue and consulted several legal experts to consider Apple’s claims,” the patent holder said. “We stand firm and restate our previous position that it is the 3rd party Developers that are responsible for the infringement of Lodsys’ patents and they are responsible for securing the rights for their applications.”

The company went on to apparently make it appear as if the big companies are essentially hanging independent developers out to dry.

“Platform providers such as Apple and Google actively encourage 3rd party Developers to develop on their platforms and provide enabling technology in the form of development kits, APIs… etc.,” the company said. “The real debate is what promise they are making to 3rd party Developers who choose to develop applications on that platform and what kind and scope of IP rights will be included (or more likely, not).”

So far, Lodsys has targeted Iconfactory for its Twitteriffic app for the iPhone, iPad and Mac, Combay for its iPhone poker apps, Illusion Labs AB for its Labarynth game for the iPhone and Android, Shovelmate for 69 Positions for the iPhone, Quickoffice for Quickoffice Connect for the iPhone, Wolven Games for Shadow Era for the iPhone, and Richard Simmons for Hearts and Daggers for iPhone.

Lodsys filed its lawsuits in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas — a court that’s known for being sympathetic to patent holders, according to FOSS Patents.

Apple hasn’t commented on the filings.

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Comments

Tiger
kevinlane

Apple can win a lot of friends in the development community by throwing everything they’ve got into beating Lodsys on this.

Bennyboy

It wouldn’t take everything the’ve got to squash Lodsys.  They can counter sue Lodsys in the developers behalf since it would be perceived as a threat to Apple’s business.  Expect a legal response from Apple that makes it clear that they will defend their developer base vehemently.

Dorje Sylas

Come to think of it, why didn’t they target DataViz for the in-App upgrade you can get for Documents to Go, o Documents to Go Premium? Maybe because DataViz is a bigger kid on this block and would have curb stomped them?

Someone got a list of big company App makers that may also be infringing?

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

It’s a bit simplistic to call them patent trolls. Lodsys clearly has a more sophisticated strategy than to throw one bag of doo-doo at a big company and see if it will stick. This is picking off small partners one by one.

To be effective, Apple (or Google) would need to countersue and contend some level of fraud on Lodsys’ part. Telling Apple (or Google) that the license they took with Lodsys covered third party use would clearly fall under that. But Lodsys not telling Apple it didn’t probably won’t do the trick.

Other options for Apple: purchase an expanded license from Lodsys or purchase the patent.

Preparing for a future where patent holders learn from Lodsys, the best strategy for Apple is to force Lodsys into a war of attrition. Lodsys can’t afford to have too many of these cases active and litigating simultaneously. So Apple could provide lawyers for developers who are sued, request that other developers not take out a license, and just try to bleed Lodsys out. That probably provides the best deterrent to other companies adapting and expanding this strategy.

Bennyboy

I think Lodsys is fishing for more cash from Apple.  If Lodsys has so many cases that are more or less the same, they can petition the court to roll them up into one case, thus making it easier for the court and for Lodsys to get a judgement.  It puts Apple in between them.

If Apple does nothing, then they end up hurting themselves by ignoring their developer base. 

If they fight Lodsys, then they know they have a long drawn out case that can take awhile to sort out what kind of license they actually have with Lodsys and if it applies to 3rd party developers. 

Lodsys can make an offer to Apple to amend the license to encompass developers and will have Apple make yearly payments to envelope any new developers that have signed on with apps that have in purchase features. 

Scummy but shrewd. They might end up getting more money just to go away.

Len

As a dev I don’t like saying this but with out seeing the license google and apple hold… we do not know if lodsys actually does have every right to sue. We need to see the agreement to judge, until then we are just hoping.

The patent system needs repair.. it just doesn’t work for software. Hopfully soon this crap stops and software patents become a thing of the past. But until then, these are the laws and they may just be on lodsys’s side.

Jeff

The 69 Positions app doesn’t even have an in-app upgrade! This lawsuit is ridiculous.

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