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Lodsys files suit against third-party App Store developers


Making good on its threats, Lodsys has filed suit today against several third-party iOS developers. According to Florian Mueller, Combay, IconFactory, Illusion Labs, Shovelmate, QuickOffice, Richard Shinerman, and Wulven Game Studios are among the developers targeted in the suit.

A series of defensive blog posts on its site explains Lodsys's rationale for filing suit. "Lodsys chose to move its litigation timing to an earlier date than originally planned, in response to Apple's threat, in order to preserve its legal options." Lodsys also appears confident it will win these suits, claiming it will offer developers US$1000 if its claims aren't held up in court. Lodsys also claims that Apple's position, that App Store developers are covered because Apple has already paid licensing fees to Lodsys and developers are doing nothing more than using Apple's own APIs, does not protect developers from Lodsys pursuing claims against them. "Lodsys has sent a detailed legal position on the license interpretation issue, in writing to Apple that has been previously only verbally communicated."

Lodsys has made its impetus in this matter crystal clear: "Lodsys has only one motivation: we want to get paid for our rights." The problem with this idea from Apple's perspective and that of third-party developers is Lodsys has already been compensated by Apple, and third-party developers are merely using Apple's licensed technology for in-app purchases. Lodsys obviously doesn't agree with this, and the company is more than aware of the unpopularity of this position: "For many people, it is easier to call Lodsys and other rights holders names for trying to be compensated for their rights, within a system that is established and known, than it is to consider one's own responsibility, or the promises and motivations of the platform provider."

It's interesting to see Lodsys discussing responsibility in this context when the company has never produced anything other than patents and lawsuits related to those patents. The company can insist that it's only seeking "fair compensation" for its "rights" as much as it likes, but there's probably a reason nearly everyone else considers this a blatant money grab: because it is, and Lodsys has all but admitted it.

As with all patent suits, this is likely to be a protracted battle that won't be resolved quickly or cleanly. Many third-party developers have already promised to band together and fight these suits, and quite frankly, I hope either the developers themselves or Apple's crack team of Shaolin warrior monk lawyers stomp this suit into the bedrock. Whether you agree that Lodsys is entitled to compensation for its patents or not, the fact is that if Lodsys does win this suit it will open the floodgates for every "I make nothing but patents" company out there to line up lawsuits one after another. The end result of that is an environment where third-party developers may no longer feel safe producing content for the platform; under those circumstances, everyone loses, including Lodsys.

Update: We understand this is a situation that many of you are fired up about (so are we), but please refrain from posting contact info for Lodsys or its attorneys in our comments.

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