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Intellectual Ventures, IP, Patent, Risk Mangement

Patent Threats Lobbed Against App Developers, But Apple Is The Target

A company called Lodsys has apparently sent threatening letters to a number of independent software developers. The common thread was use of Apple’s in-app purchase API.

The strategy strikes me as a good way to burn a lot of energy trying to draw blood from a turnip, but while it may seem unwise at first glance, anyone sending out demand letters usually has a purpose. While most of the time, the purpose is to legitimately open up a dialogue, I suspect that is not the case here.
While it’s understandably unsettling to be on the receiving end of one of these letters, the developers are likely reacting exactly how Lodsys wanted them to, which is by immediately contacting Apple for assistance. This immediately puts Apple on notice, triggering potential claims of inducing infringement by encouraging developers to use the API.

Of course, unlike the developers, Apple has the resources to grind Lodsys to dust if they want to. Granted, that would remove any legal cloud over comparable APIs from Google or Microsoft, assuming they have any.
Just about the only way this ends well for Lodsys is if Apple considers having a legal cloud surrounding use of it’s API to be too much of a headache to deal with. Consider the fact that Apple’s lawyers now have to deal with communication from an angry corps of unrepresented software developers, likely exhibiting a wide variance in sophistication and patience. Inevitably, someone will argue that Apple has a duty to defend all of these developers, and has breached various terms of its own licensing agreements.

Of course, this puts the developer in an awkward spot, which is to either trust Apple’s lawyers to clear this assertion, or hire someone to actually protect their interests (instead of Apple’s).

Another interesting point is that the inventor of Lodsys’ patents is Dan Abelow. Sound familiar? According to this Guardian article , Abelow is also the inventor of Webvention’s roll-over menu patent, discussed here.

UPDATE:

If you look at the assignment history of one of the patents allegedly at issue, you’ll see that the patent was assigned from Webvention to Lodsys in August, 2010.

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Discussion

3 thoughts on “Patent Threats Lobbed Against App Developers, But Apple Is The Target

  1. From the language used in this patent enforcement action,it sounds like Lodsys just wants to settle and nab some licensing deals. Honestly, it probably would have been smarter for them to go after Apple and/or other deep pockets, if money’s all they want, instead of pursuing one-man development shops; after all, you can’t bleed a stone.

    Posted by patent litigation | May 16, 2011, 7:14 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Patent Infringement Claims Against iOS Developers — Top 5 Things To Remember « Gametime IP - May 16, 2011

  2. Pingback: Top 3 IP ‘Bullies’ And How To Handle Them « Gametime IP - May 19, 2011

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