Apple tells Lodsys to lay off iOS developers, but its impacts are minimal

Lodsys is a company on a mission. They have been determined to sue iOS developers who are, in their eyes, illegally using their own patents. But it’s more complicated than that. Apple licensed these patents and, in some cases, require them to be used by iOS developers. So who is responsible here in the impending legal battles? That’s what we’re all trying to figure out.

After an initial round of legal threats were presented to various iOS developers on behalf of Lodsys, Apple remained quiet while the world reacted. But the overall consensus seemed to be that Apple should stick up for their third-party developers, not only to defend them in what, admittedly, appears to be a frivolous lawsuit, but to also set a precedent going forward that any future patent trolls should not bother with trying to pick on Apple’s third-party developers.

Well, Apple got the memo. After 10 days since the first batch of legal threats were revealed, Apple responded.

Because I believe that your letters are based on a fundamental misapprehension regarding Apple’s license and the way Apple’s products work, I expect that the additional information set out below will be sufficient for you to withdraw your outstanding threats to the App Makers and cease and desist from any further threats to Apple’s customers and partners.

First, Apple is licensed to all four of the patents in the Lodsys portfolio. As Lodsys itself advertises on its website, “Apple is licensed for its nameplate products and services.” See http://www.lodsys.com/blog.html (emphasis in original). Under its license, Apple is entitled to offer these licensed products and services to its customers and business partners, who, in turn, have the right to use them.

Second, while we are not privy to all of Lodsys’s infringement contentions because you have chosen to send letters to Apple’s App Makers rather than to Apple itself, our understanding based on the letters we have reviewed is that Lodsys’s infringement allegations against Apple’s App Makers rest on Apple products and services covered by the license. These Apple products and services are offered by Apple to the App Makers to enable them to interact with the users of Apple products—such as the iPad, iPhone, iPod touch and the Apple iOS operating system—through the use or Apple’s App Store, Apple Software Development Kits, and Apple Application Program Interfaces (“APIs”) and Apple servers and other hardware.

Basically, it all comes down to Apple stating that Lodsys should find a new hobby.

Therefore, Apple requests that Lodsys immediately withdraw all notice letters sent to Apple App Makers and cease its false assertions that the App Makers’ use of licensed Apple products and services in any way constitute infringement of any Lodsys patent.

However, there is some confusion. Just because Apple told Lodsys that they should leave Apple’s third-party developers alone, it doesn’t actually mean much of anything. Lodsys can still sue any and all application developers that they feel are infringing on their patents. This means that iOS developers will need to work closely with Apple with regards to any legal proceedings, because until a judge states otherwise, Lodsys can continue to make threats. Apple and/or iOS developers would have to take legal action of their own to prevent such things from occurring in the future.

Written by James Mowery

James Mowery is a passionate technology journalist and entrepreneur who has written for various top-tier publications like Mashable and CMSWire. Follow him on Twitter: @JMowery.
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