Apple to Lodsys: Developers Can Use Patents [UPDATED]

Legal ScalesLodsys has threatened to sue several independent iPhone app developers if they don’t pay patent licensing fees for technology that Apple makes available for in-app purchases and upgrades, and now it appears that Apple may have decided how it plans to handle the situation. So far, Apple hasn’t made a public statement on the situation, but comments from developers on Twitter, coupled with a letter the company sent to Lodsys, make it clear that the Cupertino-based company is ready and willing to throw its legal weight behind third-party iOS app coders.

James Thomson, one of the developers that was hit with legal threats from Lodsys, tweeted “Good news for everyone!”

Iconfactory co-founder Talos Tsui echoed that sentiment by tweeting “Way to go, Apple! Thanks!”

Craig Hockenberry, also of Iconfactory fame, added “DEAR STEVE I WANT TO KISS YOU HUGS CHOCK”

In a letter to Lodsys CEO Mark Small, Apple’s legal team made it clear it sees the patents it licensed as open and available to third-party developers that code for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

“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, according to Macworld. “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.”

Apple went on to state that “while we are not privy to all of Lodsys’s infringement contentions because you have chosen to send letters to Apple’s App Makers rather than to Apple itself, our understanding based on the letters we have reviewed is that Lodsys’s infringement allegations against Apple’s App Makers rest on Apple products and services covered by the license.”

Several independent iOS app developers where sent letters in May from Lodsys demanding that they turn over about half of a percent of their in-app sales or face patent infringement lawsuits. The patent holder alleged that the developers needed to pay their own licensing fee for the use of the technology even though Apple was already paying to license the patent in question.

The patent in question, 7222078, loosely describes “methods and systems for gathering information from units of a commodity across a network.”

For its part, Lodsys claimed Apple’s license “does NOT enable them to provide ‘pixie dust’ to bless another (3rd party) business applications.”

With Apple throwing its legal guns into the patent battle, Lodsys will likely have more than a few headaches — and substantially higher legal expenses — defending its claim that individual app developers must pay it licensing fees.

And in case there was any question on the part of Mr. Small as to Apple’s expectations, the company’s letter ended with “Therefore, Apple requests that Lodsys immediately withdraw all notice letters sent to Apple App Makers and cease its false assertions that the App Makers’ use of licensed Apple products and services in any way constitute infringement of any Lodsys patent.”

Apple hasn’t replied yet to The Mac Observer’s request for a comment.

[This article has been updated with additional information about Apple’s response to Lodsys]