Home Patent Holding Firm Lodsys Goes After Android Developer for Use of In-App Payments

Patent Holding Firm Lodsys Goes After Android Developer for Use of In-App Payments

Ten days after patent holder Lodsys sent out threatening letters to iOS developers, claiming infringement and demanding licensing fees, Apple sent its lawyers to defend against the attack. According to Apple’s legal team, the license it holds on Lodsys’ in-app payments technology also extends to its developer community.

So what did Lodsys do next? It went after an Android developer, it appears.

One Android Developer Speaks Up

According to this Google groups discussion thread (spotted by MacRumors), one developer writes that he has received a letter from the same patent firm several weeks after implementing an in-app purchases mechanism within his app:

We recently implemented in-app purchases for our Android application and several weeks later we received a letter from Lodsys, claiming that we infringed on their patents.

Have any other Android developers out there been sent a letter? Has Google taken any action on this issue yet? Has Google given direction to any developers that have been hit by this? We are obviously a small shop and are not financially capable of defending ourselves over a litigation.

We would appreciate any helpful responses (especially from the Android team).

We reached out to the developer, who asked to remain anonymous because he was unsure of the consequences from Lodsys for making the issue public. However, he did confirm that it is Google’s official in-app billing system he used in his app that is the target of the patents, and not some third-party mechanism.

Are There Others?

While the appearance of such a letter is making headlines, it seems to be a singular incidence for now. No other Android developers have publicly announced they received the same letter, and no developers have responded in the original message thread saying “me too,” either.

However, that doesn’t mean that this smoke won’t lead us to fire. According to Florian Mueller, whose FOSS Patents blog provides detailed analysis of this and other litigation occurring in the tech industry, the claim seems “logical” because Lodsys’ FAQ uses the same terminology for both Google’s and Microsoft’s license as it does for Apple’s license. Mueller notes, however, he has not seen any other corroboration of this particular claim in the wider developer community.

But we did find one example of a developer saying that the questions surrounding the threat of patent lawsuits have stopped their company from moving forward with implementing in-app billing as a third-party service provider of a similar system for developers.

Explains George (@SlideMe) on another Google Group thread:

Similarly, the same question should be asked to any other 3rd party ‘in-app’ billing service provider that a developer is implementing.  This has put us at a ‘stand-still’ at SlideME implementing ‘in-app’ billing for developers to implement with SlideLock. This is a very important case and all developers must key [sic] an eye out how it all unfolds.

It is an important case, because threats to developers’ bottom lines can stifle innovation and stall their business plans.

We have reached out to Google for comment, but have not yet heard back. We will update if and when the company responds.

Update #1 (2:45 PM EST): The developer says the company has decided to go public with their name: Clapfoot Inc. The game that is being targeted is called Tank Hero. Google has not responded.

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