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iOS apps with in-app purchasing not being approved by Apple

post #1 of 23
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Following a series of legal threats by patent holder Lodsys, Apple has temporarily suspended approval of at least some iOS applications that utilize the in-app purchasing feature [updated].

Update: Though in-app purchases were problematic for some developers for a week now, the issues in the system have reportedly been addressed, suggesting that any holdup was not related to the patent infringement suit.

News that App Store approvals from Apple were frozen was reported Wednesday by TUAW. It's was not known whether the suspension was related to legal threats that were recently sent by Lodsys to a number of iOS developers, or if it is a separate technical issue.

"As a matter of policy, Apple requires developers to test in-app purchases (IAP) with a test user account before the application in question can be approved," Victor Agreda, Jr., wrote. "Unfortunately, this test account has been offline for a week now with no word as to why."

The downtime associated with the App Store led to speculation that Apple suspended approval of new and updated applications that utilize in-app purchases. Apple has yet to respond to the legal threats toward iOS developers by patent holder Lodsys, but a report from earlier this week claimed that the iPhone maker's legal department is "actively investigating" the matter.

Last week, iOS developers first began receiving letters from Lodsys, accusing them of patent infringement for utilizing Apple's own in-app purchasing system for iOS software. Apple controls all transactions made through the App Store and native software for the iPhone and iPad, and takes a 30 percent cut.



In public comments on the situation, Lodsys revealed that Apple has obtained a license related to in-app purchases. But Lodsys believes that Apple's agreement does not extend to individual developers that create software for iOS devices.

Lodsys seeks 0.575 percent of U.S. revenue covering the period of the notice letter to the expiration of the patent, plus applicable usage. The company noted that would amount to $5,750 per year for an application that makes $1 million in annual sales.

No lawsuit has been filed, though developers were given 21 days by Lodsys to license the technology related to in-app purchases. The legal threats cite U.S. Patent No. 7222078, entitled "Methods and Systems for Gathering Information from Units of a Commodity Across a Network."
post #2 of 23
Wow. . .

If this is actually in response to the patent infringement claims rather than some other issue, I'm pretty damned surprised.
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post #3 of 23
I have had trouble in the past with getting test accounts activated. There's actually a ticket opened up regarding this issue. It may simply be that iTunes Connect continues to suck.

post #4 of 23
Huh. If there is a correlation, I'm surprised. I would have expected Apple to issue some kind of statement to the effect of, "Hold off for a few days while we investigate..." vs. simply turning off the ability to submit/test.

That said, if Lodsys is, in fact, found to be trolling, Thor's hammer will soon fall upon their head. And, it ain't gonna be pretty.
post #5 of 23
this isnt just a Test Account issue I get the same error when I go to create a "Itunes connect" user... and then also one of my apps that does not have a in-app purchase has been "In Review" for quiet a while...
post #6 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

Wow. . .

If this is actually in response to the patent infringement claims rather than some other issue, I'm pretty damned surprised.

Actually it could be connected. They could be holding on approvals for apps that could be hit with suits to avoid making matters worse (in effect protecting the developers). Once they know the score from their lawyers about the validity of the claims then they can hit the switch on these apps which probably passed everything else.

Or it could be that whatever was making MobileMe and itunes wonky over the weekend is the issue and it hasn't been cleared up completely.
post #7 of 23
My IAP-test accounts work as expected, maybe they're just not currently accepting any new test-accounts?
post #8 of 23
What does this have to do with Apple?
Approve the Apps and let the developers work it out.

Its not Apples job to play patent judge.
post #9 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Patranus View Post

What does this have to do with Apple?
Approve the Apps and let the developers work it out.

Its not Apples job to play patent judge.

A large number of popular apps use in-app purchases and Apple gets 30% of those in-app purchases. It's in Apple's best interests to help out developers and also to know the legal ramifications moving forward.
post #10 of 23
The only thing that LeachSys do is destroy value.

Can you imagine going home and sitting with your family knowing the only thing you did all day was threaten decent hard-working people with meritless lawsuits in the hope they'll be too poor to fight back.

Many of the most important software concepts were invented in the 70s and forgotten in the 80s.

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post #11 of 23
Just tested our In-App purchase test account. Everything working fine. I smell FUD.
post #12 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by PXT View Post

The only thing that LeachSys do is destroy value.

Can you imagine going home and sitting with your family knowing the only thing you did all day was threaten decent hard-working people with meritless lawsuits in the hope they'll be too poor to fight back.

I know nothing about them. Since Apple licenses their tech, don't you think there might be something there? Secondly, they are not suing. They are asking for licensing fees, fees that Apple already pays for its own apps, apparently.

As for "meritless" lawsuits, I don't know how you're defining that. You're probably talking about every lawsuit of which you disapprove. My brother just graduated with a law degree with the focus of intellectual property and is a former US Patent examiner. I can tell you that there are MANY lawsuits filed re: patent disputes that have merit. There are also many that are bogus. It sounds like what you object to (I'm just guessing from what you wrote) are companies that make money by just holding patents. I guess I get that, but it's not the immoral thing you make it out to be.
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post #13 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

Actually it could be connected. They could be holding on approvals for apps that could be hit with suits to avoid making matters worse (in effect protecting the developers).

More likely protecting Apple's own butt from a possible complaint that it is aiding patent infringement.
post #14 of 23
Did anyone else attempt to read that patent? It looks focused on a system (or a proposed idea for a system) that manages customer feedback on products. It looks more like speculation (in 1994) on future information technology trends than any kind of specific implementation of a technology. It's broad and generalized. I predict it gets tossed.
post #15 of 23
what about a work around
apple figures out a way to start in the app then go to an apple server, another use of the data center.
SJ won't be held hostage
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post #16 of 23
Too much speculation...

So I would speculate too. Apple updated iTunes Connect for developers a few days ago, and certain pages related to IAP have bugs. It is a combination of inconsistent data and bugs.

Simple as that.
post #17 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by SDW2001 View Post

I know nothing about them. Since Apple licenses their tech, don't you think there might be something there? Secondly, they are not suing. They are asking for licensing fees, fees that Apple already pays for its own apps, apparently.

As for "meritless" lawsuits, I don't know how you're defining that. You're probably talking about every lawsuit of which you disapprove. My brother just graduated with a law degree with the focus of intellectual property and is a former US Patent examiner. I can tell you that there are MANY lawsuits filed re: patent disputes that have merit. There are also many that are bogus. It sounds like what you object to (I'm just guessing from what you wrote) are companies that make money by just holding patents. I guess I get that, but it's not the immoral thing you make it out to be.

I think you are confusing legality and morality. It's not illegal, but I would certainly argue that it's unethical (or immoral, if you like) to file and/or buy up vaguely worded patents not with the intention of using them directly, but solely to sit back and wait for someone to implement something that could possibly fall under the vague wording, see if they make any money and then demand licensing fees and/or sue.
post #18 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by SDW2001 View Post

I know nothing about them. Since Apple licenses their tech, don't you think there might be something there? Secondly, they are not suing. They are asking for licensing fees, fees that Apple already pays for its own apps, apparently.

1) As Nilay Patel has reported, Apple has a blanket license for everything in Intellectual Ventures' portfolio, so it is likely that Apple's license of the Lodsys patents comes from there, rather than an independently negotiated agreement. So it is quite possible that the fact that "Apple licenses their tech", while technically true, hasn't the slightest bearing on whether there's any merit.

2) Of course they're not suing. Why would they waste their time and money suing small independents to recover less than the cost of the litigation? They're taking the much more cost-effective strategy here: a classic shake-down. It only costs a letter or two and an obnoxious blog post. And, as mentioned above, it's quite possible (likely) that Apple is in fact not paying them any licensing fees.
post #19 of 23
And right on the heels of Lodsys's efforts comes this patent infringement claim from Macrosolve seeking "monies owed from any developer whose apps collect data for questionnaires and puts them online. This one goes after both iOS and Android developers.

http://thenextweb.com/apple/2011/05/...gement-claims/
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post #20 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Morky View Post

Did anyone else attempt to read that patent? It looks focused on a system (or a proposed idea for a system) that manages customer feedback on products. It looks more like speculation (in 1994) on future information technology trends than any kind of specific implementation of a technology. It's broad and generalized. I predict it gets tossed.

It only has a chance of being tossed if the entity being sued has the financial resources to fight it. Small developers, don't usually fall into that category.

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post #21 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Patranus View Post

What does this have to do with Apple?
Approve the Apps and let the developers work it out.

Its not Apples job to play patent judge.

Considering that Apple now requires that apps that sell via websites or other methods also provide in-app purchasing, it is very much their job to deal with this patent claim.

Requiring that developers use something that then requires licensing from a 3rd party would make commerce on IOS a non-starter. Apple very much wants the platform to be a (probably the only) leading ecommerce platform. So they are going to have to step in and resolve this either by challenging it, indemnifying the developers, claiming their license already covers the developers (if they really have licensed it) or possibly sublicensing it, again if they really have a license.

Having read the patent I have no idea how Lodsys reached the conclusion that in-app purchasing or app upgrades are even remotely related to the area covered by the patent. So my guess is that Apple will put out a press release that it doesn't apply and then file for a judgement to that effect.
post #22 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

I think you are confusing legality and morality.

Actually, I think you might be. I made a pretty clear distinction.

Quote:
It's not illegal, but I would certainly argue that it's unethical (or immoral, if you like)

So the owner of a patent needs to bring a product to market? Holding patents alone in immoral? Is that what you're saying?

Quote:

to file and/or buy up vaguely worded patents

Stop right there, because "vaguely worded patent applications" are not approved. I know this from a former US patent examiner (as I said, my brother, who now is an intellectual property lawyer). Patent apps must be INCREDIBLY detailed, and even then they usually take 2-3 submissions to be approved. The US Patent Office goes out if its way to deny patents, actually.

Quote:
not with the intention of using them directly, but solely to sit back and wait for someone to implement something that could possibly fall under the vague wording, see if they make any money and then demand licensing fees and/or sue.

So you're saying that it's immoral to own ideas? I don't really LIKE it, but it's part of our system of ownership.
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post #23 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Patranus View Post

What does this have to do with Apple?
Approve the Apps and let the developers work it out.

Its not Apples job to play patent judge.

Considering the fact that developers are required to include the ability to make make in-app purchases, you can see why it is in Apple's best interest to look into the matter. I see three options happening here and they are:
  1. Developers pay the licensing fee and continue business as usual, with Pandora's Box getting opened.
  2. Developers stop developing for iOS and move to another platform (Android/Windows Phone OS), which will affect their cash cow.
  3. Apple removes the requirement for in-app purchases, which will affect their cash cow.
Apple is on a roll and the last thing they want is a wrench tossed into their gears.
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