Lodsys disregards Apple, files suit against 7 iOS developers

Lodsys has decided to ignore Apple's strongly worded demand they cease harassing iOS developers, and instead decided to file suit against 7 of them, including Combay Inc. (Mega Poker Online Texas Holdem), Iconfactory (Twitterrific), Illusion Labs (Labyrinth), Shovelmate (69 Positions), Quickoffice, Richard Shinderman (Hearts), Wulven Games (Shadow Era). Says Lodsys:

Apple and Lodsys were in confidential discussions and there was clearly disagreement on the interpretation of the license terms of Apple’s agreement. Before, during and after these interactions, Lodsys has carefully considered this issue and consulted several legal experts to consider Apple’s claims. We stand firm and restate our previous position that it is the 3rd party Developers that are responsible for the infringement of Lodsys’ patents and they are responsible for securing the rights for their applications. Developers relying on Apple’s letter do so to their own detriment and are strongly urged to review Apple’s own developer agreements to determine the true extent of Apple’s responsibilities to them.

In a private communication, simultaneous to this posting, Lodsys has sent a detailed legal position on the license interpretation issue, in writing to Apple that has been previously only verbally communicated. Apple has our permission to publish that letter, in its entirety, should developers wish to review our dispute and evaluate the risks with their own counsel. While we have nothing to hide, we cannot unilaterally publish the letter because it refers to information that was obtained with an obligation of confidentiality to Apple and we do not have their permission to do so.

They've also promised $1000 to each developer if they're in the wrong. Says Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents:

Obviously, $1,000 is not much to gain considering that even an initial analysis of a patent assertion letter by a qualified attorney will typically cost much more than $1,000. And a lawsuit can cost millions. However, the fact that Lodsys publishes such a promise shows that it really doesn't believe in Apple's representations (concerning the scope of the license) at all.

The ball is now back in Apple's (and Google's, as one developer is being sued for the Android version of his app as well). Will they indemnify developers, offer to take on the litigation on their behalf, counter sue Lodsys to invalidate the patent, or all or none of the above?

[Lodsys, FOSS Patents]

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Lodsys disregards Apple, files suit against 7 iOS developers

18 Comments

I truly hope that Apple's response to this letter is not to sick their Lawyers on Lodsys. Instead I hope they send out a squad of Steve's Ninjas to carryout an epic slaughter of patent trolls everywhere. Then their lobbyists can go to work on Congress to get the patent office employees all fired and replaced with people with common sense. Everyone has a dream and that's mine for the day.

We all know how this will turn out. Just another case of a company using their patents to help them out of a bind as their most likely not doing so hot financially.
Using patents isn't limited to small nor large corporations.
Again the U.S. patent system is far from the best. But it'll all turn out fine. It's nothing for forum members here to lose sleep over.
But of coarse consumers will get involved in a matter not concerning them anyways and have to take a with or against stance instead of a middle ground.
In any case I hope the devs get out of this alright.

1) it's course, not coarse, and
2) it does concern consumers, and very much so. Without us, the devs would not make their apps, and thus they wouldn't be in this mess. Of course it's not our fault, but us consumers do play a large role. Plus, these devs' apps enrich our lives, and as consumers we should be supporting those that make thing we use and things that make our lives more enjoyable. We would be incredibly selfish if we did not support the devs.
Also, there's the matter of how this plays out... There could be huge ramifications after this case. Anyone who doesn't care must then obviously not be invested in their phones and not care if the ramifications mean later on that they lose said devices. The iPhone isn't much of anything without it's apps, and thus it's devs.

I bet that Apple is in the wrong here, will settle this out of court and the whole thing will silently go away.

Lodsys has a bunch of patents granted by people who don't understand the underlying technology or how widespread the concepts are -- take a look at some of them and they might as well say "patent covering using an input device for a computing device" or something thereabout.
However, I believe Apple has said it's peace and will do nothing to protect people who aren't on the Apple payroll.

I think the rush by Lodsys to get these cases into the court is because

  1. They are worried that Apple will file an action against them.
  2. They believe that the small vendors will not have the ability to fight and will settle.
  3. They risk Apple requesting that the patents are declared void through the either the courts or the patent office, whatever method is used.
  4. Lodsys are so cocksure that they would win against Apple in the courtroom if it came to an action.

One of the methods of someone trying to scam is to race into the courtroom or attempt declare class action to give their frivolous suit or suits some form of integrity. All Lodsys needs is to win a single one of the Actions against a single vendor to give a 'precedent' that justifies not just the other actions but further actions. If they do this before Apple starts an action against them then the precedent is set and gives a basis for further actions and justifies a basis for defense against an action from Apple.

If I had to predict, I would bet Apple will indemnify. Apple almost has to, at this point, because they have mandated all developers use the technology in question; developers have no choice to use another, non-infringing means. If Apple will not step up to the plate to defend the technologies they require developers to use, then developers have no reason to suspect Apple will ever. Even if you think Apple does not care about developers, they do care about a 30% cut of in-app purchases, and for that they need developers to feel secure using Apple's APIs.
Android is a more interesting case, because, while Google has an In-App Billing service, it is not the only game in town. Google may (and should, for the same reasons) indemnify developers who use Google's Andoid Market In-app Billing mechanism, but that would not solve the issue for other markets, or for applications that use their own independent billing systems. (I do not know if any significant such apps exist, but it is possible on Android.) Google cannot help those sorts of apps, even if they want to. As a result, I suspect Google would be more eager than Apple to try and invalidate the patent, since that would be the only way to offer protection to the areas of Android outside their control.

I don't know what lodsys is or what this is all about, but
Apple should just buy Lodsys and then fire all the management and lawyers involved with this crap. send them packing and wishing they never started this foolnish over the dollars they will never see.
I agree its all about the money and GREED, the New American Dream, sue everybody.

Oh yes, like Apple does not sue everybody and everything in sight to protect its patents. Suddenly they have high ground on this? For Apple to buy something, someone else must be willing to sell. Right now, I would ask for a billion dollars for Lodsys, take it or leave it.

What I still don't get about Lodsys' case is that if they are so sure they are right, why have they only chosen to sue a few relatively small time developers? Surely it would make sense to go after the bigger fish, I mean surely Angry Birds makes more money from IAP than any of these apps and as such would offer more in terms of royalties.
I'd like to see Apple and Google take a united front against Lodsys. The legal might of those 2 working together would be crazy and Lodsys surely couldn't cope with that.

Have you considered that they might be right, and are suing small developers to get precedent? It´s cheaper for a small company, like Lodsys, not to tackle the big guys first, but to go after the smaller targets and get a favorable court decision to use against everybody else.
I´d like to see whoever is right win this, and by Apples shy response I feel it is Lodsys.