iOS developers served lawsuits over IP infringement

A number of iOS developers in the US have been hit with lawsuits alleging patent infringement over Apple’s in-app purchasing features for Apps Store software.

Following a threat which gave developers 21 days to secure licenses for the sue of what it claims is patented software, Lodsys has now filed the lawsuit this week the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, a district known for providing a favourable outcome for patent holders.

The claim concerns the firm’s US patent for, "Methods and Systems for Gathering Information from Units of a Commodity Across a Network."

Apple itself has licensed the technology. And in a letter to Lodsys last week, maintained that "Apple App Makers are protected by that license."

However, Lodsys asserts that third-party developers aren't covered, and has made good on its threats to pursue them, serving lawsuits just days before Apple’s massive Worldwide Developer Conference kicks off.

In the same letter to Lodsys last week, Bruce Sewell, Apple's senior vice president and general counsel wrote: “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."

Lodsys, in its blog, responded that, ‘Apple’s claim of infallibility has no discernable basis in law or fact’, and went on to point a critical finger at the platform provider’s own commitment to protecting developers.  

“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,” said the firm.  

“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.”

The story has understandably left developers eager to find out in what direction this spat will move, with fundamental questions hanging in the air about what action platform providers like Apple will be willing to take to protect them from IP issues. What promises they will be willing to make?

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