Apple Moves to Intervene, Assist iOS Developers in Lodsys Patent Case

It isn’t terribly surprising to see this. But Apple has filed a motion to intervene in the Lodsys lawsuit, where a Texas-based patent holder is suing seven iOS developers for alleged intellectual property infringement.

Like in an earlier memo senior vice president and general counsel Bruce Sewell sent to Lodsys, Apple argues that because a) it holds licenses to Lodsys’ patents which should cover third-party developers b) its relationship with and the value of its developer ecosystem is threatened and c) its rights won’t be adequately covered by lawyers for these tiny developer studios, it needs to intervene.

For background, Lodsys says it is the holder of four patents that cover actions like selling upgrades and displaying ads to users in apps. It sent letters to Android and iOS developers last month asking them to pay 0.575 percent of their U.S. revenue in order to license the company’s technology. After Apple asked the company to back down from its threat, the company sued seven developers in East Texas on May 31.

Given that Apple is known as one of the most litigious technology companies in Silicon Valley, this move is not at all unexpected. The legal costs for some of the developers involved like Icon Factory, which has six employees, and Combay Inc., which has two, would be exorbitant relative to the income they earn from their apps. If Lodsys were to prevail either by winning the suit or scaring developers into paying licensing fees, the entire ecosystem would suffer as developers would have to consider legal risks in the costs of doing business on the platform.

Apple also wants to set a precedent so that Lodsys or other similarly minded patent holders aren’t tempted to shake down independent developers again. Apple is licensed to Lodsys’ technology, likely as part of a bulk licensing deal to thousands of patents which “allegedly” cover Apple inventions.

“While the developers will likely be interested in resolving this case as quickly and inexpensively as possible, Apple’s interest is in protecting its broader license rights with respect to thousands of App developers for Apple products who may be the subject of future Lodsys lawsuits or threats,” the company said in its motion to intervene.

Florian Mueller, who has been following the case closely, says that it’s unclear whether Apple is covering the legal expenses of the case on behalf of developers as they are bound by non-disclosure agreements. We’ve embedded some of the statements he published to Scribd below.

0. Apple Motion to Intervene Against Lodsys

2. Apple Proposed Answer and Counterclaim

4. ExhB Lodsys Letter to Illusion Labs