Lodsys now going after Android developers

Fri, May 27, 2011

Legal, News

A quick recap from the world of patent trolling.

A few weeks back, a patent holding company named Lodsys sent out letters to a number of independent iOS developers claiming that their implementation of in-app purchases infringed on one of Lodsys’ patents. The letters gave developers a 21 day window within which they could strike a licensing deal. Implicit in the email was that a refusal to license the “technology” in question would be met with legal action.

Now, I put “technology” in quotes because the patent in question is bereft of any technical information and is merely a jumbled mess of metaphors and end-around arguments that describe in the vaguest and broadest terms mechanisms that struggle to encompass the in-app purchasing mechanism employed via Apple’s APIs.

After a few nervous weeks where developers were unsure how to respond, Apple this week thankfully stepped up to the plate and delivered a harshly worded letter to Lodsys telling them that iOS developers were undisputedly licensed to the Lodsys patent in question under Apple’s own namesake license.

And since then, we haven’t heard much from Lodsys. Were they going to sue iOS developers anyhow? Were they going to take up their legal battle with Apple instead?

Well, it turns out that Lodsys is now setting its sights on Android developers.

One Android developer posted in a Google Groups discussion:

We recently implemented in-app purchases for our Android application and several weeks later we received a letter from Lodsys, claiming that we infringed on their patents.

Have any other Android developers out there been sent a letter? Has Google taken any action on this issue yet? Has Google given direction to any developers that have been hit by this? We are obviously a small shop and are not financially capable of defending ourselves over a litigation.

And so now, it appears that Google is faced with the same predicament Apple was. Of course, it’s entirely in Google’s interest to step in on behalf of its developer community. Much like Apple, Google does not want a situation where Android developers shy away from the Android platform out of fear that they may wind up in court for using what they assumed were legit APIs. We imagine Google is licensed to the patent in question much like Apple was, so hopefully the patent troll that is Lodsys will be rebuffed yet again.

And in case you were wondering, Lodsys is seeking 0.575% of all app revenue from alleged “infringers.” Not surprisingly, Lodsys maintains that the percentage in question is subject to change at any time at its own discretion.

via MacRumors


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