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Lodsys Fires Back With Lawsuits for Some App Developers

In response to Apple’s letter claiming that the license it holds for using technology ostensibly patented by Lodsys, the patent holding firm has filed suit against a number of App Store (s aapl) developers Tuesday. Developers affected include IconFactor, Illusion Labs, QuickOffice and Wulven Game Studios, among others. At least one Google Android (s goog) app, Labyrinth, was also targeted with a suit by Lodsys, and Android developers have also previously been issued warnings by the patent holding firm.

The move is an aggressive one by Lodsys, which originally gave developers 21 days to license its patents, which are related to the use of in-app purchases. Twenty-one days have not elapsed from the time of issue of its notices to developers, but Lodsys felt it needed to move up “its litigation timing to an earlier date than originally planned, in response to Apple’s threat, in order to preserve its legal options,” the company said in a blog post. The patent holding firm also claims that apps that offer in-app purchases through both Google and Apple’s app markets may be required to acuire more than one license for their use.

Lodsys posted five separate entries Tuesday on its official blog regarding the lawsuits and the issue in general. In one, it unfairly accuses stories in the media of missing the point by focussing on “[t]he small developer being unfairly picked on,” among other so-called “narrow complaints.” It also made a slight concession in that it offered to pay any entity wrongly sent an infringement notice $1,000 if it turns out that the “scope of Apple’s existing license rights apply to fully license [them] with respect to our claim relating to your App on Apple iOS.”

In direct contradiction to Apple Legal’s letter on the subject released last week, Lodsys claims that developers are not covered by Apple’s license of Lodsys patents, since “Apple has specifically absolved itself of any legal responsibility it has with respect to 3rd party patent infringement by Application Developers.” Lodsys even goes so far as to claim that “Apple’s claim of infallibility has no discernible basis in law or fact,” and revealed that the letter was a surprise because Apple and Lodsys were apparently engaged in ongoing “confidential discussions” on the subject.

Lodsys closes its latest blog post by revealing that it has sent a letter detailing its legal position to Apple in response to that issued by Apple SVP and General Counsel Bertrand Sewell on May 23, and that Apple is free to make the entire content of said letter public. It’s unlikely that Apple will release the content of Lodsys’ letter, however.

It’s obvious from the tone and content of Lodsys’ new blog posts that it’s feeling the heat of overwhelming public sentiment and opinion against the position it has taken and the tactics it is currently employing. The patent holder had better brace for more heat, because unilaterally stepping up your own published timeline and filing suit against a number of small developers without any real warning in unlikely to silence accusations of “patent trolling.”

4 Responses to “Lodsys Fires Back With Lawsuits for Some App Developers”

  1. Simon

    What precisely does the patnt cover? Surely a in app purchasing system fails the obviousness test anyway?it’s not like it is a unique or particularly difficult idea to come up with and you certainly don’t need to be “skilled in the art”. Software patents are rarely granted in some countries for these reasons as, it would be interesting to see the ramifications of this suit in those counties where patent cover doesn’t extend to

  2. Steve

    Using the developer contract is a red herring. Yes, that contract says Apple is not required to indemnify developers. However Apple’s letter to Lodsys says developer’s are ok since Apple’s license covers app usage of the API. Should Apple’s position prevail, Lodsys may be liable for damages to Apple due to their interference with Apple’s licensed rights. That could be huge, especially if shown to be willful.

  3. This is a crucial test for Apple. If they cannot indemnify app developers from liability for using iOS features as directed then the developer community is going to be understandably furious. On the other hand they likely do not want to set a precedent of providing legal defense for developers. Apple’s developer agreements have been careful in limiting Apples obligations.