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Lodsys sues developers over patent infringement

Dan Moren, Macworld.com | June 1, 2011
Lodsys, which has contended that third-party developers for iOS and other platforms have violated its intellectual property, has sued a number of developers and posted more information on its Website.

The legal action follows a series of back-and-forth claims and counterclaims by Lodsys and Apple. In its letter to Lodsys last week, Apple maintained that the company “is undisputedly licensed to these patents and the Apple App Makers are protected by that license.” Despite Apple’s position, Lodsys has gone ahead and disputed the claims anyway, stating that it has been engaged in confidential discussions with Apple and that “there was clearly disagreement on the interpretation of the license terms of Apple’s agreement.”

On its Website, Lodsys also says that it has sent a letter to Apple containing its full legal position, but cannot publish the communication, as it contains confidential information from Apple. Macworld has reached out to Apple for comment, but has not received a reply as of this writing.

Lodsys seems pretty sure of its position however. The company has promised that it will pay $1000 to any developer that it has accused of infringement if it is determined that Apple’s license covers third-party developers. Then again, that fee may pale next to any costs incurred during a protracted legal battle.

And the intellectual property firm isn’t restricting its tactics to the courtroom, either. Of the several posts to Lodsys’s Website on Tuesday, the most interesting is probably “What is the platform promise?,” which veers into a more philosophical realm:

The real debate is what promise [Apple, Google, and other platform providers] are making to 3rd party Developers who choose to develop applications on that platform and what kind and scope of IP rights will be included (or more likely, not).

The post reads as a somewhat clumsy attempt to drive a wedge between Apple and its developers by suggesting that not only is Apple’s liability in legal matters limited, but also that the company doesn’t care about its developers.

That’s a tone reflected in another of Lodsys’s posts, addressing the question of “Why are you targeting Apple developers or Android developers? Why are you picking on small developers who cannot defend themselves?”, in which Lodsys suggests that its motivation is simply “to get paid for [its] rights,” whereas there’s “a more complicated set of motivations” for the platform providers and developers.

Whether these sorts of psychological argument will pay off—presumably by convincing developers to license Lodsys’s patents—is unclear, but by taking the matter to the courts, Lodsys has clearly said that the next move belongs to Apple and developers.

 

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