Lodsys Starts Suing Individual Developers

Posted by Carter Dotson on June 2nd, 2011

The Lodsys in-app purchase drama has just gotten ugly. Apple roared back last week at Lodsys' threats to individual developers, claiming that Apple's license of Lodsys' technology applied to App Store developers' products. However, Lodsys remained unflinching in the face of the strong words from Apple, as they have sued 7 developers over the use of in-app purchases in their apps. Notable developers include Quickoffice and their Quickoffice Connect suite Iconfactory, known for Twitteriffic, Ramp Champ, and Astronut, all of which use in-app purchases to unlock features in their apps. The list interestingly includes Illusion Labs, developers of the Labyrinth games for iOS; the Android version of the game is mentioned as well in Lodsys' suit. This is the second known case of Lodsys pursuing Android developers over in-app purchases, as an anonymous developer was also contacted by Lodsys recently.

Lodsys have posted new blog posts on their site trying to explain their position publicly, reiterating that they believe that Apple's license does not cover the developers who use in-app purchases in their apps. According to Lodsys' interpretation of Apple's agreement with developers, "Apple has specifically absolved itself of any legal responsibility it has with respect to 3rd party patent infringement by Application Developers." Lodsys has at least been very forthcoming with their position on the matter, even if they have developed a reputation as a patent troll by existing solely as a patent holding firm, and establishing jurisdiction in Marshall, TX — a city that with a court that is very favorable to patent holders.

Lodsys has offered a gesture of goodwill toward the developers they have sued, offering $1000 if it is ruled that developers' use of in-app purchases does not violate Lodsys' patents. However, this is largely a token gesture, as according to 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." Lodsys are putting on a public face of being a company that has been wronged by Apple and these developers, although they are just a patent holding firm that are suing developers after Apple already licensed their technology. Like all other cases involving the courts and lawyers, this one may not be resolved any time soon, and the impact of any decisions or settlements may not be known for some time.