Apple has officially moved to intervene in the lawsuit that patent holder Lodsys is waging against iOS developers, arguing that Cupertino is fully licensed to use Lodsys technology and that going after iOS developers could adversely affect Apple's app business.
"The license expressly permits Apple to offer and otherwise make available to its developers' products and services that embody the inventions contained in the patents in suit," Apple lawyers said in a Thursday filing with a Texas district court.
Lodsys made headlines recently for contacting iOS developers and threatening legal action for patent infringement. The patent in question covers "methods and systems for gathering information from units of a commodity across a network," which translates into in-app purchases, like upgrades from lite to paid versions. Even though Apple has licenses for Lodsys patents, Lodsys argued that those licenses don't extend to app developers.
Apple disagreed and said its license extends to the APIs it provides its developers for app development. The company asked that the court allow it to intervene on behalf of its developers. If granted, Lodsys would have to battle Apple rather than small developers who likely don't have the funds or legal wherewithal to battle a patent lawsuit.
Some of the apps targeted by Lodsys include Labyrinth, Quickoffice, Shadow Era, Hearts and Daggers, Twitterific, and Mega Poker.
In a May 31 blog post, Lodsys said Apple's "claim of infallibility has no discernable basis in law or fact." Developers who continue to infringe "do so to their own detriment."
"Apple is explicitly never anything more than an 'Agent' of the Developer with respect to the distribution of applications and the operation of the App Store," Lodsys said.
That same day, Lodsys said that it will pay $1,000 to any developer it sends a letter of infringement to, as a guarantee of sorts that those developers are not protected by an Apple patent license.
As blogger Florian Mueller, who first reported on the motion, pointed out, other developers continue to get notices from Lodsys, and it remains to be seen if Apple will protect them as well.
"While I don't have any confirmation from anyone that Apple has agreed to cover those defendants' costs and potential risks, it's hard to imagine how else this could work," Mueller wrote on his blog. "In its motion, Apple states explicitly that the sued app developers 'are individuals or small entities with far fewer resources than Apple and [...] lack the technical information, ability, and incentive to adequately protect Apple's rights under its license agreement.'"
Mueller said he is "reasonably optimistic" that Apple will be allowed to intervene, given that other major tech companies, like Intel and Microsoft, have successfully done so in similar cases.