Lodsys matter, a second patent-holding company is now targeting mobile application developers, claiming infringement on its patent for a system that involves collecting data from questionnaires and sending that data to a central server. The company has sued 10 application development firms so far, but claims that this patent covers "thousands of existing apps."Fresh on the heels of the still unresolved
And unlike with Lodsys, the patent firm is not just targeting iOS developers.
MacroSolve, a U.S.-based firm founded in 1997, describes itself as "a pioneer in delivering mobile apps, technology and solutions to businesses and government." It operates two divisions called Anyware and Illume Mobile and it claims to have "long-standing" relationships with Apple, RIM, Microsoft and Motorola, The Guardian reports. It also produces its own mobile applications which you can find linked to from this app's page on iTunes. (Look on the left, under "More iPhone Apps by Anyware Mobile Solutions." You can also click here to view these apps in the iTunes desktop software).
The patent in question (#7,822,816 entitled "System and Method for Data Management") was filed in August 2003 and awarded in October 2010.
Currently, the firm is suing the following 10 companies: Canvas Solutions, Kony Solutions, Widget Press, Pogo Corporation, SWD Interactive, Blue Shoe Mobile Solutions, Brazos Technology, On The Spot Systems and Formstack. All are involved in the mobile application development space and use forms.
According to The Guardian, while it's understood that Apple is looking into the ongoing situation with Lodsys' claims, it's unknown at this time if Apple is aware of MacroSolve's claims.
While so far, Lodsys has only targeted iOS developers, MacroSolve is targeting those on both the iOS and Android platforms. If successful, the company will likely target more developers across more platforms, including Microsoft's Windows Phone.
The issue with patent claims such as these is that they put developers in a bind -either choose to pay the royalty demanded, or fight the case in court. Both are lose-lose situations. Royalty payments could put developers out of business, or at least take deep cuts of their revenues. Meanwhile, a long, draw-out legal battle may end up in the developers' favor, but only after expensive legal fees are paid. Developers can rarely afford to pursue either solution, and are then left nearly defenseless.
The only real hope is that Apple, Google and Micrsoft get involved on the mobile companies' behalf, and either provide legal assistance (a short term solution) or lobby for changes to the patent system itself. Ideally, they will do both.
Update: The following statement has been provided by MacroSolve CEO Clint Parr:
We are offering licenses to all companies that have an interest in utilizing our intellectual property including our app development platforms thus empowering low tech users to customize, create and manage their own apps without having to make the major investment that we have made. In 2011, we have licensed five new companies and seven new development platforms thus contributing to many new jobs in the app development field. We ultimately expect to be instrumental in the creation of thousands of new jobs in the app development field.