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Apple: We Have the Rights to Lodsys Patents, Devs Can Use Them

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Apple (s aapl) Monday sent a letter to Lodsys and to developers, saying it has the licensing rights to in-app purchases and that developers are fully able to use them, according to Macworld. Devs on Twitter had begun discussing the letter received by Apple just a few hours ago.

The full text of the letter, which has been obtained by Macworld, is addressed to Lodsys CEO Mark Small, and is signed Bruce Sewell, Apple’s Senior Vice President & General Counsel. In the letter, Sewell acknowledges Small’s recent patent infringement claims against App Store developers, and states right up front that “Apple is undisputedly licensed to these patent and the Apple App Makers are protected by that license.” Apple states that Lodsys’ allegations have “no basis,” and articulates its intent to “defend Apple’s license rights.”

The letter from Apple goes on to assert that Small’s threats are likely the basis of “misapprehension regarding Apple’s license and the way Apple’s products work,” and assumes that the outstanding threats will be revoked as a result of the clarification Apple is making today. Apple acknowledges that it does indeed hold licenses for all four of the patents in Lodsys’ portfolio, and that the licenses it holds entitle Apple to “offer these licensed products and services to its customers and business partners, who, in turn, have the right to use them.”

The letter then goes into more detail about the specifics of U.S. patent law, and articulates exactly why the claims made by Lodsys are in error, according to the way in which the App Store and Apple Developer Agreement works.

Apple was clearly taking its time to make sure it had a comprehensive grasp of Lodsys’ position before firing a return shot, but the Mac-maker’s response could hardly be more assertive. The message is clear: Stand down or gear up for a full-scale legal battle with Apple, which is clearly not what Lodsys was bargaining for as it chose to pursue small developers with very limited resources. Unlike devs, Apple doesn’t have to consider backing down as the only way to keep the business afloat.

This is a welcome development in this in-app purchases licensing debacle, but it isn’t necessarily the end of the story. We’ve contacted Small for a response, but don’t expect him to issue a reaction before considering how best to formulate an answer from a legal perspective.

6 Responses to “Apple: We Have the Rights to Lodsys Patents, Devs Can Use Them”

  1. I’m very pleased that Apple have finally taken a stand on this; it was ridiculous that their developers could have taken the rap for this. However I as a developer myself I do think that being able to patent software is ridiculous; having ownership of our source code and associated IP is really all we care about.

  2. Yet, we all chime in before knowing the facts!

    There’s an irony in railing against this patent biz because it harms innovation; when patents themselves protect innovation and innovators’ rights.

    None of us know for sure what Apple licensed or whether they aren’t being the bully here!

    Just think how you all would feel if you simply heard that Apple was flexing its muscle against a small innovator who developed a specialized idea (e.g., in-app buying system) and preventing them from getting their just desserts!

    I’m rooting for Apple on this one–and dislike the strong-arming of small developers–but let’s not treat this like an ideological Rorschach test and flame away or make declarations without having read the pertinent documents and knowing what’s going on.

  3. cult_hero13

    I agree with jtruant about the damage this type of behavior does to innovation. The laws should be written so that if a company holds a patent and does nothing with it for a specified amount of time, it loses the patent. As with most things, it probably couldn’t be as cut and dry as this, but something at least resembling this should be in place to keep the trolls at bay and allow those who would do something useful the freedom to do so. It’s one thing to have an idea. It’s another thing to sit on it that idea and never let it grow.

    • thinking like that is flawed. your arguement is the same thing as i build a dresser thats unique, patent it, but decide not to use the design because i dont want to. you decide that you have the right to steal my design and profit ftom it without paying me. hows that fair?
      who cares if i was the creator or i bought the patent, its my property and i own it. i can do what i see fit with it. if i choose to let you use it, it was my decision. i shouldnt be forced to give up rights to my property because i dont want to use my innovation.
      while i dont agree with trolling, its a smart business idea, as well as one that should remain legal. apple made sure its devs could use the patents in its contracts with lodsys, and will win in the end. but that does not change the fact thay lodsys is the rightful owner of the patent reguardless if they choose to create with it or license it, they own it and have final say when contracts arent involved. dont trample on owners rights.

  4. jtruant

    When is society going to finally realise what damage these stupid IP laws are doing to innovation?
    Maybe we need a ‘perfect storm’, where several large companies are held ransom by some troll – but why should we come to our senses in this way?