The Guardian reports that Apple is “actively investigating” the allegation from Lodsys that iOS developers are infringing upon Lodsys owned patents.
So far Lodsys has served papers on about a dozen iOS developers who it says are infringing its patent 10/732,102, which it bought in 2004 from the inventor, who filed it in the 1990s, covering user interaction over a network.
Apple is not expected to respond to the claims, which have been passed to it by affected developers, until later this week.
Interestingly, Lodsys explained in their rambling response to commonly asked questions that Apple, not to mention other companies like Google and Microsoft, is already “licensed for its nameplate products and services.”
This seems dubious, and could be end around reasoning as Apple is an investor in Intellectual Ventures, that patent holding company that subsequently assigned the rights to the patent in question to Webvention which the passed it on to Lodsys.
This lawsuit is of course a huge issue and headache for Apple to deal with. The last thing it wants is developers to shy away from the iOS platform out of fear that something as simple as an upgrade button will result in a lawsuit. At the same time, that doesn’t leave Apple with many options. It can fund an initiative to invalidate Lodsys’ patents at issue, or it could take out a broad license with Lodsys that would indemnify all iOS developers. The latter strategy, however, would only serve to motivate other patent trolls to go after small independent iOS developers in a shameful attempt to extort money from Apple.
A number of developers have noted that they’ve reached out to Apple but have yet to hear a response. The original letter from Lodsys explained that developers had 21 days to strike a licensing deal. Meanwhile, WWDC is scheduled to kick off on June 6.
We’ll be watching.