Patent licensing firm Lodsys has sent a warning to several independent iOS developers for allegedly violating its patent related to in-app purchases.
Lodsys claims that it owns the patent to the upgrade button, a button that lets people upgrade from a free or lite version to a full, paid version. This practice is widespread and developers are surprised that anyone has claimed patent rights to it.
Lodsys has asked these developers to purchase a license from the company for using its patent within 21 days and has threatened legal action if they don’t.
Apple’s iOS developer agreement, forbids registered developers from entering into a binding agreement with another company without Apple's permission.
Apple is expected to fight the claims since not doing so will severely compromise its entire App Store ecosystem.
Patent expert Florian Mueller told The Guardian that he expects more lawsuits targeting developers in the future.
“I'm really afraid we're now going to see more patent lawsuits against application developers. Hopefully this won't ever affect little guys who can't afford to defend themselves, but if there's a major company behind an app, or if an app is commercially very successful, it can happen and it has now apparently started to happen,” Mueller said.
Many observers are calling Lodsys a patent troll, a company that makes frivolous patent claims in hopes of making small out-of-court-settlements. The immense cost of defending patent violation suits makes settlements attractive to many companies.