Apple thought it was saving the day for independent iOS application developers after IP licensing company Lodsys threatened the developers with lawsuits.The company accused the developers of violating its patent for in-app purchasing technology. In response, Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell claimed that because the developers were creating applications for Apple devices, they are covered under the license Apple has for the technology in question.
Rather than back off, Lodsys filed suit. But now the validity of all four of the company's patents is being challenged in federal court in Illinois. In his FOSS Patents blog, intellectual property activist Florian Mueller explains:
Yesterday ... ForeSee Results, Inc. filed a proactive declaratory judgment action against all four Lodsys patents. In that complaint, ForeSee Results Inc. said that Lodsys had "threatened assertion" of one or more of its four patents against ForeSee's customers.
The company wants the court to declare invalid the patents Lodsys is using to threaten its customers.
Mueller points out that ForeSee did the right thing in filing suit proactively. Doing so allowed it to file suit in a jurisdiction other than the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, which has a reputation as a patent-troll-friendly court. What's more, if the matter is decided quickly, and in ForeSee's favor, it could benefit the iOS and Android developers that are currently facing infringement suits concerning the patents.
In his view, Google and Apple should have acted more quickly to do the same thing when Lodsys threatened to sue their developers. But since they didn't, Mueller suggests they should now at least announce how they plan to cover the developers in the event they are found liable to Lodsys. He writes:
More than a week after Lodsys sued seven little app developers, Apple and Google still have not declared publicly how and to what extent they will cover developers who have been or may in the future be sued by Lodsys ... [I]t's getting time for the big players to answer the question of coverage.