iOS developers face legal threats over Apple's in-app purchase system

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
A number of iOS developers were hit with legal threats this week, alleging patent infringement through utilizing Apple's in-app purchasing feature for App Store software.



Developers were first sent legal complaints this week accusing them of patent infringement, according to TUAW. Developers have not yet been sued, but were informed that they have 21 days to license technology related to in-app purchases.



The maker of "PCalc Lite," James Thomson, as well as Chicago-based developer Patrick McCarron were both sent letters via FedEx claiming patent infringement related to iOS software.



The complaints stem from patent holding firm Lodsys, and are related to U.S. Patent No. 7222078, entitled "Methods and Systems for Gathering Information from Units of a Commodity Across a Network, MacRumors discovered on Friday. The original patent was filed in December 2003, but dates back through continuations to earlier applications as old as 1992.



The invention is credited to Dan Abelow, though his portfolio of patents were sold to Lodsys in 2004. It is Lodsys that has threatened legal action against iOS developers.



So far, there is no evidence that Apple has been targeted in the complaints sent out. Apple controls the App Store for iOS devices, including the iPhone and iPad, as well as the in-app purchasing protocol.







In-app purchases were first introduced in 2009, when Apple release iOS 3.0 for the iPhone. Though the feature was initially restricted to pay software, later that year Apple granted creators of free applications the ability to charge for add-ons and additional content.



Just like purchases made directly through the App Store, in-app purchases are charged by Apple to a user's iTunes account. Apple takes a 30 percent cut of all transactions made for software on iOS devices.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 44
    Doesn't this seem a big odd? Going after the developer? Wowzer. Probably due to the fact they know legal action with the smaller people would be less of a struggle than dealing with apple and their billions?



    So odd.
  • Reply 2 of 44
    guch20guch20 Posts: 173member
    Damn, can Apple do anything nowadays without being sued?



    I know the story says there isn't any evidence so far that Apple has been sued for this, but I guarantee they have been.
  • Reply 3 of 44
    pxtpxt Posts: 683member
    I wonder how generic those systems for data collection are. If the patent is one of those mindless ones where they describe something obvious which gets thrown out of court, then this company may just be trying to scare developers into submission, knowing that Apple would kick their asses.



    I hate these patent sitters and the lame patent office that doesn't understand IT or what is and is not innovation.
  • Reply 4 of 44
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,563member
    This is obviously an extortion racket, with the "patent holder" going after app developers rather than Apple with the expectation that they'll be able to force them to pay for licensing to avoid the legal costs.
  • Reply 5 of 44
    ankleskaterankleskater Posts: 1,287member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by guch20 View Post


    Damn, can Apple do anything nowadays without being sued?



    I know the story says there isn't any evidence so far that Apple has been sued for this, but I guarantee they have been.



    Guarantee? How?



    It's likely a deliberate strategy to go after developers and not Apple. Pretty smart
  • Reply 6 of 44
    buckbuck Posts: 293member
    I wonder if developers could circumvent the patent troll by registering their entity in another country and operating from there. Then said troll would have to sue Apple for providing the content infringing on the patent and that's not going to happen.
  • Reply 7 of 44
    ghostface147ghostface147 Posts: 1,629member
    Dear Patent Troll,



    I appreciate your absurdity. I am merely a pawn in Apple's plan to dominate the world. I use their tools, their guidelines, their framework, and do their bidding. Take it up with them.



    Thanks,



    developer
  • Reply 8 of 44
    ash471ash471 Posts: 705member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    The complaints stem from patent holding firm Lodsys, and are related to U.S. Patent No. 7222078, entitled "Methods and Systems for Gathering Information from Units of a Commodity Across a Network, MacRumors discovered on Friday. The original patent was filed in December 2003, but dates back through continuations to earlier applications as old as 1992.



    The patent claim is gobbledygook. Supposedly it relates to getting feedback on "commodities." It would be interesting to see why the particular accused infringers were selected. Maybe they collect more feedback on the "user's perception of the commodity" as compared to other app developers.







    Here is claim 1:



    1. A system comprising: units of a commodity that can be used by respective users in different locations, a user interface, which is part of each of the units of the commodity, configured to provide a medium for two-way local interaction between one of the users and the corresponding unit of the commodity, and further configured to elicit, from a user, information about the user's perception of the commodity, a memory within each of the units of the commodity capable of storing results of the two-way local interaction, the results including elicited information about user perception of the commodity, a communication element associated with each of the units of the commodity capable of carrying results of the two-way local interaction from each of the units of the commodity to a central location, and a component capable of managing the interactions of the users in different locations and collecting the results of the interactions at the central location.
  • Reply 9 of 44
    mennomenno Posts: 854member
    This is stupid. I'm still waiting on a decent overview of the lawsuit to see what's going on, but from what I've read they're basically suing developers who us IAP to "upgrade" an app from a trial version to a paid version.



    Aka, they're suing over an upgrade button. Are they also suing all those companies that provide upgrade options via their computer programs?



    According to Nilay Patel, Intellectual ventures (a known patent troll) is involved. Most likely they are going after individual developers hoping to get quick payoffs because their patent would struggle to hold up in court. It's also apparently very similar to a patent Microsoft received at a later date. No doubt if they went after Apple, they'd lose the patent so they're hoping to scare some devs into paying out first.



    It's just another sign that US patent law is completely broken.
  • Reply 10 of 44
    ash471ash471 Posts: 705member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Buck View Post


    I wonder if developers could circumvent the patent troll by registering their entity in another country and operating from there. Then said troll would have to sue Apple for providing the content infringing on the patent and that's not going to happen.



    They would still name the developer as the defendant because the infringing acts occur in the U.S. You can sue a foreign entity in a U.S. court as long as the foreign entity engages in activity in the U.S. There is still no need to sue Apple.
  • Reply 11 of 44
    mbarriaultmbarriault Posts: 237member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ash471 View Post


    The patent claim is gobbledygook. Supposedly it relates to getting feedback on "commodities." It would be interesting to see why the particular accused infringers were selected. Maybe they collect more feedback on the "user's perception of the commodity" as compared to other app developers.







    Here is claim 1:



    1. A system comprising: units of a commodity that can be used by respective users in different locations, a user interface, which is part of each of the units of the commodity, configured to provide a medium for two-way local interaction between one of the users and the corresponding unit of the commodity, and further configured to elicit, from a user, information about the user's perception of the commodity, a memory within each of the units of the commodity capable of storing results of the two-way local interaction, the results including elicited information about user perception of the commodity, a communication element associated with each of the units of the commodity capable of carrying results of the two-way local interaction from each of the units of the commodity to a central location, and a component capable of managing the interactions of the users in different locations and collecting the results of the interactions at the central location.



    Someone needs to tell the author of that claim the definition of "run-on sentence"
  • Reply 12 of 44
    patranuspatranus Posts: 366member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Menno View Post


    This is stupid. I'm still waiting on a decent overview of the lawsuit to see what's going on, but from what I've read they're basically suing developers who us IAP to "upgrade" an app from a trial version to a paid version.



    Aka, they're suing over an upgrade button. Are they also suing all those companies that provide upgrade options via their computer programs?



    According to Nilay Patel, Intellectual ventures (a known patent troll) is involved. Most likely they are going after individual developers hoping to get quick payoffs because their patent would struggle to hold up in court. It's also apparently very similar to a patent Microsoft received at a later date. No doubt if they went after Apple, they'd lose the patent so they're hoping to scare some devs into paying out first.



    It's just another sign that US patent law is completely broken.



    Why would they go after Apple?



    Apple isn't the one infringing on the patent, the software made by developers who are not Apple are the things infringing.
  • Reply 13 of 44
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    These ecommerce patents are really bogus because the AppStore is just a proxy for credit cards. Ultimately the bank sends you a bill regardless of where you shopped. The part that is frustrating is that the law suit is attacking Apple devs directly when ecommerce is everywhere, however, the patent owners have no complaint with the other 10 billion small companies using ecommerce only Apple.
  • Reply 14 of 44
    ash471ash471 Posts: 705member
    There is no reason to start off by suing Apple. Apple probably has the resources to crush the patent holder, regardless of the merits of the case. These guys want a quick settlement. The way you do that is harass the Apple developers who have almost no resources to fight a patent lawsuit. My guess is that many of these developers would be better off getting a default judgement against them and filing bankruptcy rather than fight a patent infringement suit. Of course Apple doesn't want this patent looming over its developers and will want to take care of it fast and easy......which means pay 500K-1M to settle.



    If the litigation goes anywhere at all, I would guess that the defendants will be the ones to get Apple named as a defendant. Apple appears to me to be an essential party to the infringement. In case you weren't aware, a defendant can ask the court to bring another defendant into the lawsuit. (which is basically the defendant making the plaintiff sue someone else).
  • Reply 15 of 44
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post


    This is obviously an extortion racket, with the "patent holder" going after app developers rather than Apple with the expectation that they'll be able to force them to pay for licensing to avoid the legal costs.



    Apple needs to get solidly behind these developers, right away.
  • Reply 16 of 44
    hal 9000hal 9000 Posts: 101member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Patranus View Post


    Why would they go after Apple?



    Apple isn't the one infringing on the patent, the software made by developers who are not Apple are the things infringing.





    It´s not only Apple, the developer should also walk free from this. Imagine: how moric a judge would have to be to say that PC Calc or any other app is a "commodity". By definition, a commodity encompases identical products (silver, oil, corn, etc.) Apps are all different.
  • Reply 17 of 44
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,198member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Patranus View Post


    Why would they go after Apple?



    Apple isn't the one infringing on the patent, the software made by developers who are not Apple are the things infringing.



    Nobody is infringing on this patent, or maybe everybody is. Maybe I am when I take a shit. Its hard to tell.



    However if offering in-app purchasing is found to be in violation of this patent, Apple will lose boat loads of money. So Apple is getting sued, if only in proxy.



    The real problem is that the patent doesn't make any sense.
  • Reply 18 of 44
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by josephwinters View Post


    Doesn't this seem a big odd? Going after the developer? Wowzer. Probably due to the fact they know legal action with the smaller people would be less of a struggle than dealing with apple and their billions?



    So odd.



    There's nothing odd about it at all. Apple's lawyers have money to fight in court. The developers are often small and will likely be unable to afford attorney's to fight. The hope is to make money off the little guy in settlements.



    Basically, it's less effort to go after the developers. I think Apple will likely get involved, as its eco-system is under attack.
  • Reply 19 of 44
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,198member
    The first guy we know of who get issued this patent was from Scotland. I believe that UK courts dont really take Software Patents as seriously as American courts - you have to produce some work, not just an idea - so they can pull from the American App Store.
  • Reply 20 of 44
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,198member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by guch20 View Post


    Damn, can Apple do anything nowadays without being sued?



    I know the story says there isn't any evidence so far that Apple has been sued for this, but I guarantee they have been.



    But if they have been then they have been cleared and these will be tossed.



    Which makes me think Apple has not been and all these smaller ones will be tossed because they are following Apple's instructions in good faith and these folks will be forced to sue Apple.
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