holding company troll, Lodsys LLC., that has been popping up in the tech news lately for being a thorn in the side of iOS developers has now broadened their horizons and brought Android developers into the mix.
In case you haven’t been following the story the brief version is that Lodsys holds a number of patents which relate to the implementation of in-app purchasing and they have been sending letters to iOS and now Android developers demanding 0.575% on every US sale until the patent expires in 2023.
One recipient of Lodsys’ attentions is Clapfoot, Inc., the developers of Tank Hero (which is a good game by the way) and one of the early adopters of the in-app payment system which has only been available to Android developers since the end March. As a very small development team with over 4 million downloads of their app, they made an excellent target for Lodsys. As they don’t exactly have a legal team on retainer, they took to Google Groups to look for help from Google and/or their fellow developers.
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).markusn82on Android Discuss
That discussion thread continues to grow and some are offering advice, but at the time that this post is going up there hasn’t been a response from another developer that has received the letter or from a Google employee.
While it’s sometimes fun to play armchair lawyer, I’m not going to pretend that I know the answer to this one. I can tell you that Lodsys indicated on their blog that Google (along with Apple and Microsoft) is a licensee. With that in mind we can probably expect to see them take a similar stance to that of Apple, which was quite simply that they hold a license on these patents and that the developers utilizing it within the confines of the App Store (or in this case the Android Market) are protected by that same license. That seems like a reasonable position, but reason and the law often seem to be at odds with one another.
We have reached out to Google regarding the status of their license on the Lodsys patents and whether they believe that their license is sufficient to cover Android developers using in-app payments and will update this post when we have a response.