Apple Enters Lodsys Patent Fight Over iOS Apps

Apple filed a request last week to intervene in a patent lawsuit brought by Lodsys against seven small independent iOS application developers.

Developers have sought Apple's formidable legal help and financial resources in the patent case after being confronted in letters from Lodsys in early May over alleged patent infringement for technology used to help customers make purchases inside iOS apps sold in the App Store.

Lodsys, a Texas-based patent holding company, filed suit against the developers on May 31 in U.S. District Court for the eastern district of Texas. Lodsys focused on two patents it holds: U.S. Patent No. 7,620,565 related to a "customer-based design module" and U.S. Patent No. 7,222,078 related to making purchases inside an application.

Florian Mueller, an activist in patent matters, Apple's request to intervene, but said the court is "fairly likely" to allow Apple's involvement. "It's good news that Apple now wants to confront Lodsys in court," Mueller wrote.

Apple's 21-page motion says it should be allowed to intervene partly because it already has a license to the very patents in dispute. "Both Lodsys' complaint and its threats to other Apple developers adversely affect the value of Apple's license and its business with the developers," Apple said.

Apple also noted that it is tied into an ecosystem with independent software developers through the iPhone and iPad , the iOS operating system and the App Store. And it said Lodsys has not described precisely how the seven iOS developers infringed on the two patents described in the suit.

The seven iOS developers named in the Lodsys lawsuit are Combay Inc. of Roanoke, Texas, maker of Megan Poker Online Texas Hold'em for iPhone; Iconfactory Inc. of Greensboro, N.C., maker of Twitterrific for iPhone and iPad; Illusion Labs AB of Malso, Sweden, maker of Labyrinth for iPhone; Michael Karr, doing business as Shovelmate of Las Vegas, maker of 69 Positions for iPhone; QuickOffice Inc. of Plano, Tex., maker of QuickOffice Connect for iPhone; Richard Shinderman of Brooklyn, N.Y., maker of Hearts and Daggers for iPhone; and Wulven Game Studios of Hanoi, Vietnam, maker of Shadow Era for iPhone.

The federal court case has been assigned to Judge T. John Ward.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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