updated 05:20 pm EDT, Fri May 20, 2011
Patent holder suing over in-app purchase system
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has called on Apple to defend iOS developers against several "patent troll" lawsuits aimed at technology used for in-app purchases. The group accuses the patent holder, Lodsys, of threatening developers for using an in-app purchase system that is mandated by the iOS terms, rather than pursuing a case directly against Apple.
"Apple's failure to defend these developers is troubling and highlights at least two larger problems: patent trolls and developers' vulnerability when harassing and counter-productive patent litigation comes around," the EFF wrote in a blog post.
Apple is reportedly immune from being hit with an infringement suit, as the company licenses the technology that is the focus of Lodsys' lawsuit threats. To avoid such situations, the EFF suggests developers must investigate all of the iOS technologies used in each app to determine if anything infringes on another company's patents.
"For many small developers, this requirement, combined with a 30 percent fee to Apple, is an unacceptable cost," the EFF added. "Even careful developers who hire lawyers to do full-scale patent searches on potential apps surely would not expect to investigate the technology that Apple provides. Instead, they would expect (with good reason) that Apple wouldn't provide technologies in its App Store that open its developers up to liability – and/or would at least agree to defend them when a troll like Lodsys comes along."
It remains unclear if Apple will choose to address the situation if Lodsys chooses to move from threatening letters to actual lawsuits.