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Apple Defends App Makers, Responds To Lodsys Patent Threats

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After two weeks of silence, Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) attorneys have fired off a response to the legal threats against small app developers made by Lodsys, a small Texas company wielding patents that it claims cover in-app purchasing. A letter sent today by Apple GC Bruce Sewell says that the app makers are already covered by the license Apple has taken to the four Lodsys patents.

The Lodsys threat letters are demanding a .575% annual royalty payment, and could apply that to thousands of app makers. But those demands have no legal basis, writes Apple’s top lawyer. “Your letters are based on a fundamental misapprehension regarding Apple’s license and the way Apple’s products work,” writes Sewell, in a letter that was leaked to mocoNews (it’s here).that was quickly leaked to Macworld.

The news of Apple’s intervention will come as a huge relief to the untold numbers of small app developers who were facing a deadline by which they had to either pay Lodsys’s small (but still outrageous) fees, or face legal action.

Essentially, Apple GC Sewell lays an argument that the central methods claimed in Lodsys’ patent all directly involve Apple technology. The system works because of Apple’s servers, Apple APIs, and the Apple App Store itself. Since the Lodsys patents have already been licensed to Apple, it can’t turn around and ask app makers for a second payment, because Apple services are so closely tied to what’s outline in the patent. Sewell writes that-contrary to Lodsys’ assertion-app developers are indeed already covered by Apple’s license.

Sewell ends the letter by asking that Lodsys withdraw the “notice letters” it has sent out and “cease its false assertions” that any app maker is infringing its patents.

Lodsys has made a big deal out of the fact that big companies like Apple, Google (NSDQ: GOOG), and Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) have paid up for licenses to its patents. But those licenses were almost surely part of blanket licensing deals that the companies struck with Intellectual Ventures, the giant patent-holding firm that owned these patents before selling them to a group of investors who created Lodsys. The big tech companies that “licensed” the Lodsys patents may have never even looked at them, much less approved of them or thought them worthy of paying licensing fees.