Earlier this month, patent-holding company Lodsys started going after small-time iOS developers, sending them "notice" letters which claim the developers are infringing on one of Lodsys' patents for in-app purchasing technology. In these notices, Lodsys demands that developers license the patent from them for 0.575% of the U.S. revenue generated using in-app purchases and many companies have been put between a rock and a hard place, with the cost of fighting a potential lawsuit could be far greater than simply paying Lodsys.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the real problem isn't just that, but the fact that Apple actually requires developers to use the technology they could be sued for using and it's called on the company to stand up and shoulder the burden.
The EFF argued on its blog today that "Apple's failure to defend these developers is troubling and highlights at least two larger problems: patent trolls and developers' vulnerability when harassing and counter-productive patent litigation comes around."
While Apple is protected from liability via a patent it took from a Lodsys predecessor, developers are not. This is especially troubling, since Apple provides this technology with immunity while requiring its developers to use it in unknowing violation of a patent. As EFF's Julie Samuels notes, "even careful developers who hire lawyers to do full-scale patent searches on potential apps surely would not expect to investigate the technology that Apple provides. Instead, they would expect (with good reason) that Apple wouldn't provide technologies in its App Store that open its developers up to liability - and/or would at least agree to defend them when a troll like Lodsys comes along."
For a fuller look at the entire Lodsys debacle, take a look at Sarah Perez's round-up of "5 Links to Help iOS Developers Understand the Lodsys Patent Mess".