Patent Wars: Taking On the Little Guys

Mac OS KenThere’s a patent company that’s on the hunt for iOS developers, and the little guys aren’t happy about it. Apple is heading back to Washington again, it looks like digital books are starting to outsell print versions, and Mac OS Ken’s Ken Ray has his own take on the week’s news.

Patent Man: On the Prowl

One patent holder is taking legal action against one type of in-app purchase implementation, though they’re not taking action against Apple. The story’s a little convoluted, though CNET says a company called Lodsys is threatening to sue App developers, Computer LogicX, individual developer James Thompson, and a few other developers, too.

Indications from Computer LogicX are that action is being taken against them — not for employing in-app purchases across the board — but for offering lite, or free, versions of software that can be upgraded to full versions via in-app purchase.

Thompson, on the other hand, didn’t seem to want to say much on the issue without some sort of clarification from Apple legal. He didn’t even want to say whether it was Lodsys from which he’d heard, though he did say in his Twitter feed that the papers with which he’d been presented gave him 21-days to license the patent he’d been accused of infringing — otherwise he could face further legal action.

Lodsys is explaining why it’s suing who it’s suing, and why it’s not suing Apple, now that it’s in the media spotlight. Actually, it’s not suing anyone yet; it’s giving developers chances to license the patent it says they’re violating, OTHERWISE it’ll sue.

Lodsys said on its official blog that it isn’t going after Apple because Apple has actually licensed the patent in question. But, it says, the developers have not, and thus do not have the right to offer in-app purchases through Apple’s system.

Quoting the Lodsys post:

It is the owner of the hotel who is responsible for the overall service (value proposition) that guests pay for, not the owner of the land that the hotel may be leasing, not the travel agent that sold the reservation, not the manufacturer of tools such as hammers, nor the provider of materials such as nails or steel beams, which may be used in building the hotel; nor is it the outsourced linen washing service or the architect of the building who is responsible. Lodsys’ patent portfolio is being used as part of an overall solution and we are seeking to be paid for the use of patent rights by the accountable party.

I’m sorry who owns the hotel in this analogy? And which ones are the developers?

Put another way: If I sell or rent a door to a hotel, do I have the right to try to charge everyone the hotel says can walk through it?

In my analogy the hotel is Apple, people allowed to walk through door are developers, the door is the patent and I think I’m Lodsys, but less… Lodsys-like.

In fairness to Lodsys, the company is seeking just over one half of one percent “of U.S. revenue over the period of the notice letter to the expiration of the patent, plus applicable usage. That would amount to $5,750 per year for an application that makes $1 million in annual sales.”

In fairness to everyone else, though, the whole thing smells and smells and smells, no matter how small a percentage they’re seeking.

You kinda gotta think Apple thought they were covering what Lodsys is seeing as developer costs when they licensed the patent don’t you? It’d be neat if Apple got involved.

Hey here’s an idea: You know what Apple could do with a tiny little bit of its $60 billion dollars in cash on which it’s sitting? Buy that patent.

First, it would generate goodwill with developers. Second, it would make the lives of developers easier, and — bonus points — Lodsys says both Google and Microsoft have licensed the patent as well, meaning Mr. Softy and “the search king” would have to write checks to the Cupertino-company every now and then, which you know would have to tick them off. Which might make buying the patent worth it all by itself.

I’m kidding about that. Mostly. Let’s move on.

Apple Goes to Washington. Again.
Apple is so totally popular in Washington, D.C. First, there was the Senate hearing, then there was that other Senate hearing later this week, and now AppleInsider says the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission — also in the U.S. — have invited Apple and Google to a June 28 “public education forum” on the benefits and risks of location-based services.

They’re gonna give them a month and a half to write up what’s great about location based services?

You know what’s funny? Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in the immediate wake of the data logging issue that companies like his, and the industry as a whole, had not done enough to educate consumers about what info was being used and how. And yet I can’t imagine a “public education forum” on the benefits and risks of location-based services held by the FCC and the FTC is gonna do it.

Actually it’s not supposed to. The FCC says the forum will help agency staff produce a report on location-based services that could help FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and other commissioners draw up regulations that may or may not ever be implemented.

The space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to launch that day as well, ending the U.S. space shuttle program… coincidence? I. Think. So.

Digital: It’s the New Paper
And finally today, I hate Amazon’s penchant for giving numbers without numbers. So much so that I skip their releases sometimes since I have no interest in saying they’re saying something without actually saying anything, but they came out with numberless numbers yesterday that are actually indicative of something.

Engadget has the book and everything else seller saying yesterday that digital book sales are now beating sales of all print titles. Hardcover, paperback, pop-up… doesn’t matter.

Amazon says, as of the first of April, for every 100 “book” books sold by the company 105 Kindle books were sold, and that does NOT include downloads of free titles.

While “more” is not a NUMBER… It is pretty significant.