Following up from this morning's flurry of news surrounding a series of legal threats to independent developers, there's this thorough and wonderful dissection of the situation by Florian Mueller, an intellectual property activist.
On his blog he states, "...companies like Apple will look at these issues on a case-by-case basis and make a determination in each case how far they go with their support." As Macworld pointed out early on, Section 6.2 of the iOS Paid Apps Agreement seems to put the liability for any infringement back on app developers. But that's unlikely to happen. Still, it's a sticky situation that (once again) turns our attention to some ugly truths about our courts and our patent system.
The patent in question, according to Cnet, appears to be patent number 7,222,078, an invention of Dan Abelow. Abelow is a successful inventor and in his resume he notes that his communication and customization patents are licensed and owned by Lodsys, LLC. I'm not a lawyer, but Mueller points out that the patent is broad, covering "methods and systems for gathering information from units of a commodity across a network" and in today's case (along with a previous infringement threat to Computer Logic X) is being applied to the "upgrade" button used to transition free iOS apps to their paid equivalents; it could possibly apply more broadly against the mechanism for in-app purchasing. Again, I'm no lawyer, but I'm not so sure it's that the patent is too broad, but that it is being very loosely applied here.
Lodsys patent claim threatens independent developers, what next? originally appeared on TUAW on Fri, 13 May 2011 18:05:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.