With WWDC kicking off next week, one topic of discussion sure to be on the minds of many developers will be Lodsys' recent decision to scoff at Apple's cease and desist letter and sue iOS developers for patent infringement.
Remember that Lodsys initially sent letters to a number of iOS developers claiming that their use of in-app purchasing was infringing. Those initial letters expressed a desire to strike a licensing deal under the implied threat of a lawsuit. Following that, Apple sent a letter to Lodsys claiming that iOS developers are licensed for the patent at issue under Apple's own license. Moreover, Apple demanded that Lodsys cease and desist its attempt to shake down iOS developers for patents that they are "undisputedly licensed" to.
But Lodsys doesn't appear to be afraid of Apple's legal weight in the slightest. A few days ago, Lodsys CEO Mark Small filed suit against 7 iOS developers and concurrently posted a series of blogposts addressing a number of issues. Some of the iOS developers served with papers include Iconfactory which puts out Twitterrific and Combay, Inc. which puts out Mega Poker Online Texas Holdem for the iPhone.
Lodsys mentions that it sent back a detailed legal response to Apple's own legal assertions but notes that it can't publish it independently because it contains confidential information pertaining to negotiations with Apple. That said, Lodsys invited Apple to publish its retort if it so chooses.
One of the more commonly voiced complaints levied against Lodsys is that they're a patent troll entity purposefully going after small iOS developers in a blatant attempt to shake people down who lack the resources to adequately defend themselves over a broad, wide-sweeping, and non-obvious patent that should have probably never been granted in the first place.
To that, Lodsys responds:
This story is about accountability for actions. If you are a Developer, it’s about knowledge about the scope and risks of your own business.
Lodsys has only one motivation: we want to get paid for our rights.
The blog goes on to state.
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.
One thing's for sure - Lodsys is not going down without a fight.
Now all eyes are on Apple as people will wait and see what their next move is. As has been explained a number of times, acquiescing to Lodsys and their fluffy patent could set a horrible precedent and is liable to bring patent trolls out of the woodwork in droves. At the same time, developers need to make a living and clearly don't want to expend resources that could be used for development for litigation. Even further, Apple naturally wants iOS developers to develop for the iOS platform without having to worry about winding up in court. There are a lot of competing interests here and this will probably get even stickier soon.
For those wondering what Lodsys wants from developers, it's seeking 0.575% of all developer revenue earned while employing in-app purchasing. And yes, that seems minuscule, but Lodsys reserves the right to increase their licensing demand at any time, and again, once you cave an inch to Lodsys, other patent trolls will spring up and demand their own licensing deals.
There's bound to be some interesting conversations emanating out of WWDC next week about this very topic.