Patent troll sues iOS App Store developers over in-app transactions

Another day, another mess in the perilous world of software patents. In this case, however, it appears to be more of a David versus Ants case instead of David versus Goliath, Goliath being Apple. Apple's not the enemy of this newest patent litigation - if they were, they'd be able to fight off the David of this case in court. The ants we're talking about are small App Store developers who are being targeted by an unknown third party, over a mechanism that is provided by Apple - making in-app purchases.

The company in question is Lodsys, who received a portfolio of patents from an individual by the name of Dan Abelow. According to MacRumors, this patent in question was filed in 2003 and describes a rather vague way for systems to "[gather] information from units of a commodity across a network." The patent appears to describe a "Customer Design System" module built into a product that allows for vendors to adapt to customers' needs and supply changes on demand. Somehow, the idea of purchasing upgrades within an application falls under this huge definition.

An iOS developer seems to think so. In a statement made to MacRumors, the developer of Mix and Mash writes:

Our app, Mix & Mash, has the common model of a limited free, lite, version and a full version that contains all the features. We were told that the button that users click on to upgrade the app, or rather link to the full version on the app store was in breach of US patent no 7222078, we couldn't believe it, the upgrade button!?!

He's not the only one. Cult of Mac spotted the above tweet made by the developer of pCalc, James Thomson. Thomson was set to release a scaled-back free version of his application, like so many other developers have done in the App Store, but is forced to put those plans on hold as he deals with a lawsuit threat sent to him and other developers via FedEx.

Unfortunately, most of these developers simply do not have the funds to fight out a lawsuit, and definitely would not settle for paying a settlement over something they did not come up with. Some of these developers are approaching Apple for help.

Image Credit: Cult of Mac

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