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Apple to Lodsys: 'App makers are protected by [our] license'

Lex Friedman, Macworld.com | May 23, 2011
Apple says its license for Lodsys patents covering in-app purchases applies to all iOS app makers. The response came in a letter sent Monday to Lodsys and its CEO Mark Small. Lodsys had recently sent letters of its own to various independent iOS developers, threatening legal action over alleged patent violations.

Apple's argument is thus fairly straightforward. The company licensed its use of the Lodsys patents, and the developers that Lodsys alleges infringe those patents in fact leverage Apple's licensing, since any behaviors covered by the patents are actually driven by Apple's technology, and not the developers'.

 

Citing the Quanta Computer, Inc. v. LG Electronics, Inc. 2008 Supreme Court case, Sewell writes that:

 

...because [the discussed] Apple products and services, under the reading articulated in your letters, entirely or substantially embody each of Lodsys's patents, Lodsys's threatened claims are barred by the doctrines of patent exhaustion and first sale... Therefore, 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.

Obviously, Apple's firm letter to Lodsys doesn't make the issue go away. Lodsys may force Apple's hand by going forward with threatened litigation against App Store developers. But Apple's letter at least offers some reassurance to iOS developers that the company takes the issue seriously, and that the company intends to defend its developers against such patent legal wrangling. Lodsys's response, of course, remains to be seen.

Developers react

Developer reaction to the news was swift. TLA Systems developer James Thomson, who broke the story when he received a letter from Lodsys, expressed a feeling of great relief.

"I am extremely relieved that Apple has stood up for its developers against these patently unfair claims by Lodsys," Thomson told Macworld. "I always believed they would, but it's a huge weight off my shoulders to see it written in black and white. The last ten days have been some of the most stressful of my professional career, and I'd just like to say thanks to Apple and all our customers and friends who have been highly supportive of us during this time."

Ken Landau, the President of MobileAge and another recipient of Lodsys's legal threat, told Macworld that Apple's letter is "real good for us developers... I'm really very happy. Apple did the right thing."

"I've never seen iOS developers so excited about the walled garden," Red Sweater Software's Daniel Jalkut wrote on Twitter.

"I should write to Steve Jobs more often," tweeted Iconfactory developer Craig Hockenberry. Earlier in the day Hockenberry posted an open letter to Steve Jobs on his blog where he referred to companies like Lodsys as "greedy predators."

 

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