EFF Urges Apple to Support Developers Against Lodsys Patent Threat

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today issued a statement calling on Apple to defend App Store developers against patent lawsuit threats from Lodsys, a company seeking licenses from developers for their use of in app purchasing and upgrade links.

The EFF lays out its case that because the developers are taking advantage of Apple's developer tools to deploy the functionality being cited in the dispute, Apple is in the best position to defend against the threat.

This is a problem that lawyers call a misallocation of burden. The law generally works to ensure that the party in the best position to address an issue bears the responsibility of handling that issue. In the copyright context, for example, the default assumption is that the copyright owners are best positioned to identify potential infringement. This is because, among other reasons, copyright owners know what content they own and which of their works have been licensed. Here, absent protection from Apple, developers hoping to avoid a legal dispute must investigate each of the technologies that Apple provides to make sure none of them is patent-infringing. For many small developers, this requirement, combined with a 30 percent fee to Apple, is an unacceptable cost.

Apple's developer agreement, however, precludes developers from turning to Apple for assistance in legal disputes, meaning the company could leave developers to fend for themselves.

Many observers have, however, argued that it is in Apple's best interest to step into the situation, shouldering the cost and effort in order to protect its valuable ecosystem of independent App Store developers. If developers are reluctant to embrace the App Store for fear of being targeted by lawsuits driven by their use of Apple technology, the platform could suffer significantly.

By putting the burden on those least able to shoulder it, both Apple and Lodys are harming not just developers but also the consumers who will see fewer apps and less innovation. We hope that going forward companies like Apple will do what's right and stand up for their developers and help teach the patent trolls a lesson.

Meanwhile, one week has passed since the first notices from Lodsys arrived in developers' hands, leaving two weeks until the firm's deadline for licensing passes and at which point it has threatened to file suits against the developers. Apple has yet to address the issue publicly, but the company is famous for waiting to speak until it has a firm grasp of the facts at hand rather than trying to address public relations crises as quickly as possible.

Top Rated Comments

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120 months ago
Apple should obviously aim at protecting those who have made its Store what it is today.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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120 months ago
Come on, Apple. Grow a pair and protect those developers that have invested in your success.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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120 months ago
Developers should expect something for that 30% Apple App Store tax besides just distribution.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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120 months ago
Apple doesn't have time to deal with this they're too busy suing everybody and their brother.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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120 months ago
My opinion is that Lodsys has a right to its patent. But then I saw that Apple is complying with that patent already. Can one application of the patent require both Apple and the developers to pay patent right costs? If Apple is already paying for the use of it, does that not cover the developers selling apps within Apple's app store and running on Apple's iOS devices?

Should be interesting.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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120 months ago
Apple will have to respond. But, it takes time for them to investigate these things. Patent law is notoriously obscure and convoluted and I'm sure there's many, many possibilities and potential pitfalls involved. Apple has to be very careful as to what response they make and the exact wording of it. If they're already licensing Lodsys patents themselves, it gets even trickier for them.

Look at Apple's history, they generally do not respond to anything until they have a complete, thoroughly investigated solution or explanation ready to go. iPhone4 antennas, the cel tower "tracking", the Hon Hai suicides and worker abuse allegations, the white iPhone production problems, the various security exploits, and so on. They wait until they have the full grasp of the situation before they officially respond. Which is smart but can be annoying for those with a vested interest.

While it may look like they have their head buried in the sand and are doing nothing, I'm sure that is not the case.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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