Lodsys Begins Suing Mobile Developers, Disputes Apple’s Claims About Licensing

Lodsys, the firm that threatened mobile developers for allegedly infringing upon the company’s patents, began suing individual developers today. The company’s disputing Apple’s claim that third-party developers are protected by its licenses to Lodsys’ patents.

The company sued seven developers, including Twitterrific-maker IconFactory Inc. and Vietnam’s Wulven Games, which makes Shadow Era, a trading card game we reviewed favorably back in March. At the core of the suit is Lodsys’ argument that the use of in-app purchases — technology which Apple provides to developers — infringes upon patents it acquired.

The Texas-based company said that it decided to sue developers earlier rather than later to “preserve its legal options” and respond to “Apple’s threat.” Last week, Apple general counsel and senior vice president Bruce Sewell wrote a letter to Lodsys, asking it to stop claiming that using in-app purchases on iOS was an infringement and to withdraw all of its letters of notice to developers.

Lodsys says that it actually was in negotiation with Apple privately about its licensing terms and how they affect developers. “The letter was very surprising as Apple and Lodsys were in confidential discussions and there was clearly disagreement on the interpretation of the license terms of Apple’s agreement,” the firm said on its website today.

The company went on to criticize Apple’s developer agreement and marketing, saying they contradict each other. Lodsys says that while Apple gives the impression that it provides developers with everything that they need and offer some protection.

However, Lodsys says the maximum liability Apple covers on behalf of third-party developers is just $50. “Apple has specifically absolved itself of any legal responsibility it has with respect to 3rd party patent infringement by Application Developers,” Lodsys said in a statement. “Apple’s downside risk to fight this is $50 per developer and the Application Developer is expected to self-insure for everything remaining.”

Lodsys has also sent letters of notice to Android developers, asking that they pay licensing fees or face litigation. Google declined to comment on whether or not it licenses Lodsys’ patents.