23 May 2011
Last week a patent holding company called Lodsys started sending threatening letters to small iOS Developers who are using “In-App Purchases” in their Apps. Developers had 21 days to agree to a licensing agreement with Lodsys or face legal action. You can read the story at Macrumors. One of my Apps, Lotería Puerto Rico uses In-App Purchases so I got a little worried.
Today, Apple’s General Counsel Bruce Sewell has sent a letter to Lodsys claiming that developers are “undisputedly licensed” for the patent in question.
“Thus the technology that is targeted in your notice letters is technology that Apple is expressly licensed under the Lodsys patents to offer to Apple’s App Makers. These licensed products and services enable Apple’s App Makers to communicate with end users through the use of Apple’s own licensed hardware, software, APIs, memory, servers, and interfaces, including Apple’s App Store. Because Apple is licensed under Lodsys’ patents to offer such technology to its App Makers, the App Makers are entitled to use this technology free from any infringement claims by Lodsys.”
“Apple requests that Lodsys immediately withdraw all notice letters sent to Apple App Makers and cease its false assertions that the App Makers use of licensed Apple products and services in any way constitute infringement of any Lodsys patent.”
The full text of the letter is available on Macworld.
I’m happy to hear that Apple is defending me, but the reality is they have no choice. They have to intervene and unleash the full force of their legal dogs against Lodsys. In-App Purchases created a new category of App called “Freemium Apps” and they generate millions of dollars in revenue for developers and Apple (30% commission). The idea is that you download a free basic version of the App and upgrade or buy additional features from within the App without downloading another App.
I’m pretty sure Apple would have never released In-App Purchases, if they didn’t believe we (developers) were covered by the licensed patents in question. I’m not sure what’s going to happen next, but I’m pretty sure Lodsys doesn’t want to fight Apple in court. Otherwise it wouldn’t have chosen to threaten poor independent developers and have gone after the big fish instead. In other words, Apple just called their bluff. What’s their next move?
Thank you Apple!