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5/31/2011
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Lodsys Sues Developers For Patent Infringement

iOS, Mac OS X, and Android apps infringe on its intellectual property, according the patent holding firm.

Ignoring Apple's public assertion that its developers are protected by its patent licensing agreements, Lodsys filed a patent infringement claim on Tuesday against seven developers who have created apps for iOS, Mac OS X, and Android.

The lawsuit was filed against Combay, Iconfactory, Illusion Labs AB, Michael G. Karr (d/b/a Shovelmate), Quickoffice, Richard Shinderman, and Wulven Game Studios in the Eastern District of Texas, a venue favored by those making patent claims.

The patents at issue are U.S. Patent No. 7,620,565 and U.S. Patent No. 7,222,078. Lodsys claims that its patents cover in-app purchasing technology.

In so doing, Lodsys has increased pressure on Apple and Google to indemnify their developers or propose a settlement, lest developers conclude that the risks of developing mobile applications outweigh the potential rewards. If Lodsys succeeds in its claims, other claims from other patent holders are likely to follow.

Neither Apple nor Google responded to a request for comment.

Apple SVP and general counsel Bruce Sewell last week sent a letter to Lodsys insisting that Apple's patent licensing agreement with Lodsys covers Apple's developers.

"Because Apple is licensed under Lodsys' patents to offer such technology to its App Makers, the App Makers are entitled to use this technology free from any infringement claims by Lodsys," Sewell's letter states.

Lodsys on Tuesday published a blog post challenging Apple's position.

"We stand firm and restate our previous position that it is the third-party Developers that are responsible for the infringement of Lodsys' patents and they are responsible for securing the rights for their applications," Lodsys states. "Developers relying on Apple's letter do so to their own detriment and are strongly urged to review Apple's own developer agreements to determine the true extent of Apple's responsibilities to them."

As Lodsys points out in a separate blog post, Apple's contract with its developers absolves the company of legal responsibility for third-party patent infringement and limits its responsibility to $50 in the event its contracts, APIs, or actions cause harm to a developer.

Lodsys says it has only one motivation: It wants to be paid for its rights.

Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference begins next week and if this matter has not been addressed by then, every developer there will be looking to Apple for reassurance in the form of contractual indemnification or active legal intervention.

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