Apple has come out in full support of its app developers, some of whom have been threatened by a company claiming it owns a patent covering in-app payments.
Earlier this month, Lodsys, a patent licensing company for inventions, contacted at least five developers of iOS apps in the UK and US claiming it has four patents relating to in-app purchases, interactive online ads, online help and subscription renewals. The developers referred the claim to Apple’s legal department as at the time of the claim it was unknown whether or not Apple had licensed any of the Lodsys patents. Now, following an investigation by its legal department, Apple has hit back with a strongly-worded letter stating that it is not happy to see its app ecosystem coming under threat. In the letter from Bruce Sewell, the head lawyer in Apple's legal department, to Mark Small, the chief executive of Lodsys, Apple claims it does in fact hold licences for the relevant patents “and the Apple App Makers are protected by that license. There is no basis for Lodsys's infringement allegations against Apple's App Makers."
Sewell goes on to say that Lodsys’ claims were invalidated because the developers “require the use of Apple's APIs to provide two-way communication," as well as the physical memory, which is also provided by Apple and claims as its "central location" the Apple App Store. On its blog last week Lodsys said: “The scope of their [Apple] current licenses does NOT enable them to provide “pixie dust” to bless another (3rd party) business applications.” The blog has not since been updated in response to Apple’s letter. Sewell’s letter concludes by calling on Lodsys to stop threatening iOS app developers: "Apple requests that Lodsys immediately withdraw all notice letters sent to Apple App Makers and cease its false assertions that the App Makers... in any [infringed] any Lodsys patent."
So it comes down to the fact that Apple says it has the licences to cover the patents mentioned by Lodsys, with the patent holding company claiming it doesn’t. While this letter probably won’t deter Lodsys, it is nice to see Apple strongly defend its app developers who make them so much money.