Feeds

In-app payment patent scattergun fired at small devs

Will Apple step in to protect its ecosystem?

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Mobile developers using in-app purchasing have been hit with letters requesting they hand over half a per cent of their US revenue as a licence for using the patented concept.

The letters arrived by FedEx on Friday, addressed to individual developers of applications that allow the user to unlock additional functionality in exchange for money. That's a very popular use for in-application billing, and one facilitated by all the popular mobile platforms including Apple's iTunes and Google Marketplace as well as Nokia's Ovi Store.

But Lodsys, which owns the patent, isn't targeting the facilitators as they aren't providing the functionality to end users, as explained in the company's blog. It's the developers who are creating applications that infringe on US patent 7,222,078, therefore it's the developers who should cough up 0.575 per cent of their US revenue to Lodsys in licence fees.

Lodsys freely admits it didn't invent the technology, or even buy it from someone who invented it. The patent was filed by one Dan Abelow around 20 years ago. He sold it as part of a bundle of patents to Intellectual Ventures, who then sold them on to a "private rights ownership group" which "set up independent companies, with sufficient capital and talented staff to focus on licensing the patent rights broadly to the marketplace".

The patent is hugely broad, even at a glance, and could well be challenged. But the developers being targeted lack the resources to challenge it, while the facilitators (Apple, as iOS developers are the only ones targeted so far) aren't being accused of any infringement. One might argue that Apple is facilitating the patent infringement, but there's little reason for Lodsys to bring Cupertino into the fray.

Though Lodsys is drawing Apple into the matter anyway, as all the developers have gone running to Cupertino for advice. Patent blogger Florian Mueller reckons Apple will have to provide some sort of legal aid to the developers, or risk the whole ecosystem; but he also points out that even Apple can't risk taking responsibility for every patent that iOS developers infringe.

With millions of mobile apps now being commercially distributed a lot more valid patents are going to be infringed, and a lot more frivolous claims are going to be made. But mostly, a lot of patent lawyers are going to get paid to sort out which is which. ®

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

More from The Register

next story
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
KDE releases ice-cream coloured Plasma 5 just in time for summer
Melty but refreshing - popular rival to Mint's Cinnamon's still a work in progress
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.