Relief as Apple moves to defend developers in IP row

Apple has responded to a lawsuit filed against a number of developers by patent holder Lodsys, arguing that they are protected under the company’s license, and that pursuing them in this way would adversely affect Apple’s business.

Applying for permission to intervene in the cases brought by the IP organisation earlier this month, Apple reiterated its view that developers were covered by an existing licence.

“The license expressly permits Apple to offer and otherwise make available to its developers’ products and services that embody the inventions contained in the patents in suit,” Apple lawyers said in a Thursday filing with a Texas district court.

This follows a move by Lodsys against a number of iOS developers, and one Android developer, in relation to their use of in-app purchasing mechanisms, or, “methods and systems for gathering information from units of a commodity across a network.”

The original suits were filed by Lodsys with the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, a district known for providing a favourable outcome for patent holders.

Even though Apple has licenses for Lodsys patents, Lodsys argued that those licenses don’t extend to developers. In letters to developers earlier this month, it offered them a licensing deal worth 0.575% of revenue from any apps using the disputed technology. They were given 21 days to reply.

No doubt many developers will be breathing a sigh of relief at Apple’s intervention. Craig Hockenberry, senior developer at The Icon Factory, makers of the Twitterfific app, tweeted “DEAR STEVE I WANT TO KISS YOU HUGS CHOCK”.

Hockenberry made public comment on the case previously when he posted an open letter to Steve Jobs when the lawsuit was still just a threat.

“What these predators don’t realize is that for every developer who’s earning millions, there are many thousands who are earning much less,” he wrote. “This backbone of the iOS ecosystem is doing well with work we love, but that is very much at risk with increased legal costs.”

The court still has the power to deny Apple’s intervention, though it is thought likely to be granted. The whole industry, not just developers, is watching closely to see whach way this will go.

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