Apple is “actively investigating” the claims of patent infringement made by Lodsys against App Store developers, according to The Guardian. Lodsys, a patent holding firm, has been sending notices to independent developers giving them 21 days to secure a license for technology used in in-app purchases.
Apple has yet to provide any response at all to the aggressive actions made by Lodsys, which didn’t directly target Cupertino, since, according to Lodsys’s official blog, Apple is already a license holder for its tech. Lodsys has received significant negative feedback from the general public regarding its actions, including emailed death threats. Most observers seem to see the action against developers as patent trolling, a colloquial term used for when a non-practicing holder of general patents goes after active users of tech that could be seen as being in violation of said patents.
Developers have been forwarding the complaints to Apple’s legal department, in the hopes that the iPhone-maker will intervene on their behalf. It’s a reasonable expectation, given that all developers are guilty of doing in this case is using the tools supplied them and endorsed by Apple as part of the iOS software development kit.
Far from backing down in response to negative public reaction, Lodsys appears to be stepping up its efforts. Iconfactory developer Talos Tsui tweeted Tuesday morning that the popular Mac and iOS app development company “just got Lodsysed.” Lodsys appears to be targeting developers indiscriminately, based solely on whether or not they make use of in-app purchases. Though large iOS development companies like Gameloft and Zynga have yet to publicly release any information regarding whether or not Lodsys is targeting them, too, but it seems unlikely that the patent holder would avoid such potentially lucrative targets with its wide-net approach.
The Guardian doesn’t cite a specific source for the information that Apple’s legal department is investigating the claims made by Lodys, but it does add that Apple is preparing a response for sometime later this week. As we’ve seen in the past, and as Apple executives themselves have pointed out, the company takes an engineering approach to all problem solving, which first and foremost means analyzing and understanding the problem before acting.
If you’re wondering whether or not Apple will end up responding to the threats made by Lodsys, consider that these claims threaten to undermine the attractiveness of the App Store to developers. The quality and depth of the App Store is arguably Apple’s most valuable asset in the ongoing battle for smartphone supremacy. And now that Lodsys is broadening its efforts to include some of Apple’s higher profile software development partners, the stakes are even higher.
This new report from The Guardian only serves to reinforce my belief that Apple will do everything in its power to make sure this doesn’t escalate. It’s possible that Cupertino thought a sit-back-and-watch approach was best early on, since it was still possible the whole thing might just go away. But it’s much more likely that Apple’s legal team has just been taking the time to make sure it covers all the bases before firing a return shot that will sideline Lodsys and make it possible for iOS developers to go back to business as usual.