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Lodsys sets sights on Android developers

Lodsys, the patent-holding outfit accused of trolling Apple developers over the use of in-app purchasing technology, has also started to target Android developers.

A post on one of Google's forums reads:

If you've been following tech news lately, you may have read about a company named Lodsys that is threatening to sue iOS app developers (many of them small shops) for infringing on patents relating to in-app purchases.

There's no doubt that Lodsys holds some pretty watertight patents, otherwise why would big hitters like Apple and Google pay for them in the first place? The confusion lies in how far the patents reach when it comes to third-party developers.

Lodsys insists that its patents have been paid for by the device manufacturers only and that anyone developing software for the those devices must cough up on their own.

Explaining why his company is targeting developers, Lodsys' Mark Small writes, "The economic gains provided by Lodsys [patents] are being enjoyed by the business that provides the product or service that interacts with the user. Since Lodsys patent rights are of value to that overall solution, it is only fair to get paid by the party that is accountable for the entire solution and which captures the value.

"As a comparative example, it is the owner of the hotel who is responsible for the overall service (value proposition) that guests pay for, not the owner of the land that the hotel may be leasing, not the travel agent that sold the reservation, not the manufacturer of tools such as hammers, nor the provider of materials such as nails or steel beams, which may be used in building the hotel; nor is it the outsourced linen washing service or the architect of the building who is responsible. Lodsys’ patent portfolio is being used as a part of an overall solution and we are seeking to be paid for the use of patent rights by the accountable party."

It might seem like a smart analogy, but you don't have to pay a fee to the bloke who bought the patent off of the bloke who invented nails, or windows, or shower curtains every time you stay in a hotel.

Lodsys insists that both Apple and Google are licensed only for 'nameplate products'. In other words, apps which are developed by Google and Apple employees.

Apple's top lawyer seems to disagree. In a blistering three-page letter to Mark Small, the Cupertino company's Bruce Sewell accuses Lodsys of making 'fundamental misapprehensions' of the terms of the licence agreement and 'false assertions' in its letters to developers.

"The technology that is targeted in your notice letters is technology that Apple is expressly licensed under the Lodsys patents to offer to Apple’s App Makers," Sewell rages. "These licensed products and services enable Apple’s App Makers to communicate with end users through the use of Apple’s own licensed hardware, software, APIs, memory, servers, and interfaces, including Apple’s App Store. Because Apple is licensed under Lodsys’ patents to offer such technology to its App Makers, the App Makers are entitled to use this technology free from any infringement claims by Lodsys."

Apple has insisted that Lodsys withdraws all notice letters sent to 'Apple App Makers'.

Google's lawyers might want to copy and paste the full text of Sewell's missive (remembering of course to change 'Apple' for 'Google') here.