Apple Jumps In to Save App Makers In Lodsys Lawsuit

Apple has filed a request to intervene in patent-holder Lodsys’ suit against seven Apple developers, aiming to protect programmers and its own interests in one stroke.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company’s 21-page request, filed last Thursday, argues it should be allowed to step between the plaintiff and defendants since it holds a licence to the patents in dispute.

The plea follows Apple’s outspoken support for its programmers when Lodsys two weeks ago sued seven iOS developers for allegedly infringing on its in-app purchasing patent.

Lodsys’ suit demands six per cent of revenue from developers Combay, Iconfactory, Illusion Labs, Michael Karr, Quickoffice, Richard Shinderman and Wulven Game Studios.

Apple, which disagrees with Lodsys’ lawsuit, saying it already pays the Texas-based company to use its patents, claims these copyrights extend to all third-part developers.

By going to bat for its worried developers, many of whom are not able to settle with Lodsys or cover legal costs if the battle goes to court, Apple is also standing up for itself.

“Both Lodsys’ complaint and its threats to other Apple developers adversely affect the value of Apple’s licence and its business with the developers,” Apple said.

Apple initially stayed quiet while Lodsys targeted its developers, but the company has since decided to support them, mainly because it can’t afford not to. A good portion of the company’s $4 billion in profits to date are largely thanks to its App Store sales, which are driven by in-app purchases.

If Lodsys’ suit scares developers away from creating Apple apps, they might defect to Google’s less-regulated Marketplace, cutting off Apple’s free-flowing supply of money.

But Apple may not need to worry too much, as the Justice Department recently began conducting antitrust reviews of patent-holders like Lodsys. The government wants to make sure patent owners don’t squeeze every last drop from their users, who have no choice other than to pay if they want to use the technology.

Lodsys has a history of suing companies for patent infringement, like Canon, Hewlett Packard, Motorola and many others. On June 7, Foresee Results filed a suit against Lodsys on behalf of Adidas, Best Buy and WE Energies, saying Lodsys’ patents were actually invalid.

Lodsys has not yet said whether it will oppose Apple’s motion to get involved in its lawsuit against iOS developers. Nor has any court indicated it will honour Apple’s request. One thing seems certain though, which is that this battle has just begun.

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