Apple steps up to protect devs from Lodsys claims

Apple has stepped in to the ring to protect a group of iOS developers being hounded by patent-holding outfit Lodsys.

The IP company is trying to squeeze additional payments out of third-party Apple developers who use in-app purchasing functions employ methods supposedly patented by Lodsys.

There's no doubt that Lodsys has a solid claim to the patents as Apple already pays the company a licensing fee to use it in its home-grown apps, but the dispute lies in whether Apple's licence extends to those developing apps independently using Apple's software tools and APIs.

Apple has already fired a broadside at Lodsys in the form of a three-page letter from Cupertino Counsel Bruce Sewell, insisting that there was no basis for the companies allegations and saying, "Apple is undisputedly licensed to these patents and the Apple App Makers are protected by that licence."

But the latest chapter in the saga has seen Apple apply to 'participate as an intervenor, in a case being held in a Texas court against seven app makers.

Apple's reason for the application is that the sued developers are "individuals or small entities with far fewer resources than Apple," who "lack the technical information, ability, and incentive to adequately protect Apple's rights under its license agreement."

So Goliath has finally showed up to protect David for the first time, but Apple still hasn't made it clear whether it will protect any other developers being pursued by Lodysy, a company described as a 'patent troll' by digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

According to Foss Patents, Lodsys is still firing off letters to developers, some dated as recently as June 1st.

Apple's intervention in the Texas court case is an encouraging first step, but the Cupertino company needs to assure all developers that it will bring its full legal might to bear on anyone attacked with seemingly spurious IP lawsuits, and it needs to do it now.

In six months time, once the licensing spat has been settled - in all likelihood in Apple's favour - coaxing those app makers who have given up the game because of legal shenanigans back into the iOS fold might be impossible.

Mind you, with Lodsys also setting its sights on Android developers, they may well have nowhere else to go.