iOS Devs Receive Patent Infringement Warnings For In-App Purchases

iOS developers received letters the week from a patent holding firm that claims the applications in question that offer in-app purchasing infringe on intellectual property patents they the company owns.

The company threatens legal action against the developers if they don’t license the patent within a 21 day period. Lodsys, the firm behind these legal allegations, has patented a system collects usage data and facilitates feedback between a customer and vendor, though it doesn’t speak of financial transactions it translates to in-app purchasing.

The infringement comes from applications that use Apple’s in-app purchase tool to encourage users to buy an upgrade to a paid version after downloading a free version. We find it weird that Lodsys is going after small development companies on the iOS platform that use Apple’s in-app payment system. It’s a possibility that Apple received this same letter, but individual developers were the only to confirm receiving the legal documents. This could be a tactful play to go after the small unarmed developers, rather than the well-armed large corporations.

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Multiple developers have posted about this on Twitter after receiving the letters, including Matt Braun (MASH), James Thomson (PCalc), and Patrick McCarron (Shanghai for iPad). At this point the developers are unwilling to share more information at this point to protect any case that can be brought against them. It’s a good point to make that even though Apple developed the framework, developers can still be liable for any legal troubles between them and others.

Lodsys isn’t new to this, having launched other lawsuits against Canon, HP, Samsung and other big companies this year. The patent in question is U.S. patent 7,222,078 that the company holds over most large companies heads when launching suits. There is no clear connection between the patent and the lawsuit that the company is trying to pull, but that is up to a court to decide.