Apple insists it will intervene on behalf of developers being sued by patent troll Lodsys, reports Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents. This insistence on behalf of Apple shows that the company is serious about stepping in on behalf of developers of software on the App Store that use the in-app purchasing components of Apple’s API’s.
In June, Apple had moved to intervene on behalf of the developer defendants of Lodsys’ patent infringement suits. Lodsys then replied, saying that Apple had no right to intervene because the developers weren’t actually Apple’s customers and didn’t have a de-facto license for the technology involved, even though Apple itself is a licensor.
In this latest brief, Apple comes out guns blazing in its reply to the Lodsys opposition, making several points in its argument to be allowed to intervene on behalf of the developers being sued. Mueller has a good rundown in his post, but a couple of them stand out.
Although segments of the brief are unavailable to the public at this time, what is there is strongly worded, with Apple shutting down Lodsys’ discussion of Apple’s licensing claims. Basically Apple says that should be for an official hearing and shouldn’t be discussed now. “Factual issues concerning the construction of this provision must be resolved on the merits, not at the pleading stage on a motion to intervene.”
Apple also demonstrates an awareness of developer unhappiness, including the recent rumblings of a boycott of the App Store saying, “Apple’s License lies at the heart of this case, Lodsys has already sued numerous significant Apple customers and threatened dozens of others, and a boycott of some of Apple’s core products by App developers has been proposed.”
In response to Lodsys claims that many recent defendents like Electronic Arts have the resources to defend themselves, Apple sidesteps the issue of all of the smaller developers not having the resources by saying that Lodsys is missing the point. Apple says that no matter what resources they have at their disposal, they still don’t know how Apple’s internal technology works, only Apple knows that and should be allowed to intervene so that it is represented correctly.
The news that Apple is insisting on intervention, even after a rebuff attempt from Lodsys should be a welcome one for many small developers that are waiting with bated breath the outcome of this proceeding.
This whole ordeal began when Lodsys, now thought to be a shell company for huge patent firm Intellectual Ventures, began sending out letters to developers informing them that their use of in-app purchasing infringed on Apple’s patents. Lodsys then explained its stance and proceeded to go on to sue most of the developers that had received letters, along with many more. Apple then made a public statement saying that its developers already were licensed for in-app purchasing because Apple themselves were licensed. Lodsys responded negatively, saying that developers were not Apple’s customers after all and that they would need to negotiate licensing deals separately.
Needless to say, this has been quite the ordeal, especially for many developers who created iPhone apps solo or with small teams, and have been feeling that their only recourse was to bow to Lodsys’ demands and license the patent separately.
Things are really heating up. The results of this hearing, if the motion is granted, will be interesting.