This morning, several iOS developers have tweeted that they have been served with papers regarding their applications' use of in-app purchases. PCalc Lite developer James Thomson tweeted that he received a FedEx package of legal papers this morning. Thomson lives in Scotland. As Thomson clarifies, he hasn't been sued yet, but he's "been told that I am infringing their patent, they want me to license it, and I have 21 days."
Chicago-based developer Patrick McCarron confirmed that he too had met with identical circumstances. Both developers have declined to name the party of the complaint, and both will be consulting with Apple, whose in-app purchase mechanism they are using, before making any further statements. Thomson told John Siracusa it was not MacroSolve, a company that has been increasing its enforcement of patents around mobile tech.
In-App purchase is the mechanism by which applications can offer upgrades and extended features to customers from inside the application, creating an extended revenue flow after the initial software purchase. Many developers use this feature to provide free-to-paid pathways or to offer upgrades, subscriptions and booster packs.
More as this develops. If you are an independent developer served with a similar complaint and would like to discuss it with TUAW, please contact us here.
Update: MacRumors suggests this is Lodsys, based on previous claims against some pretty large printer companies and a conversation with developer Rob Gloess over a potential lawsuit surrounding an "upgrade" button in his apps.
But the Lodsys patents appear to target "upgrade" mechanisms, not in-app purchases. Of course, the meaning of an in-app purchase to enable certain features or add-ons could be construed as an "upgrade." Still, we as yet have no confirmation that Lodsys is behind the current notices being sent out, but we have reached out to them for comment.
Well, Lodsys, good luck with that. If you think Apple will roll over and let you scuttle the App Store, you haven't been reading the news for the past several years.
Update 3: Nilay Patel tweets that he believes patent portfolio kingpins Intellectual Ventures may be behind this. His tweet: " The patent was assigned to Ferrara Ethereal LLC, which is an IV shell company. They must have given some enforcement rights to Lodsys." It just keeps getting better, doesn't it?