Apple under fire for apathy in the face of patent trolls it fed

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Published: LLodsys Shows That Apple Does Not Care About Developers --Schestowitz 08:20, 24 May 2011 (UTC)


Summary: Apple is under fire for apathy in the face of patent trolls it fed

<a name="top">T</a>HE VERY real problems with software patents are being clearly illustrated in the headlines recently. This is a result of the news that there are<a href="http://www.thedrum.co.uk/news/2011/05/18/21633-app-developers-sued-over-patent-claims/" title="App developers sued over patent claims">hypePhone application developers being sued without Apple defending them</a>.

This is a good opportunity to remind all developers that Apple is not their friend, regardless of whatever marketing hype they generate to the contrary.

There has been and continues to be an enormous amount of coverage of this story. [<a href="http://news.cnet.com/8301-27076_3-20062647-248.html" title="iOS app makers targeted in patent spat">1</a>, <a href="http://paidcontent.org/article/419-more-on-legal-threats-to-apple-developers-lodsys-explains-its-demands/" title="More On Legal Threats To Apple Developers: Lodsys Explains Itself">2</a>, <a href="http://www.pcworld.com/article/227878/trolled_ios_developers_threatened_with_patent_lawsuits.html" title="Trolled: iOS Developers Threatened With Patent Lawsuits">3</a>, <a href="http://www.gmtennis.com/lodsys-lawsuits-threatening-apple%E2%80%99s-apps-developers-12886.html" title="Lodsys lawsuits threatening Apple’s Apps Developers">4</a>]. This is perhaps due to the fact that Apple's involvement is explicitly mentioned. Muktware, as always, <a href="http://www.muktware.com/news/18/2011/1184" title="US Patent Madness Continues, Apple, Android Developers Sued">does a good job with its coverage</a>, putting the case into a clear context LLL.

The patent troll, in response, has <a href="http://news.cnet.com/8301-27076_3-20063253-248.html" title="Lodsys posts FAQ on its in-app purchase patent">trying to explain its actions</a>. The EFF, which is involved in an ongoing patent-busting project, <a href="https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/05/apple-should-stand-up" title="Apple Should Stand Up and Defend its Developers">has suggested that Apple should get involved in the case</a> (article <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/appsblog/2011/may/23/eff-apple-developers?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter" title="Apple must defend developers against patent threats, says EFF">here</a>) rather than help make patent trolls stronger by sitting in the sidelines. Many developers <a href="http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2011/05/developers-petition-apple-for-help-against-lodsys-via-bug-reports-hashtags.ars" title="Developers ask Apple for help against patent troll via bug reports">are having similar feelings</a>, <a href="http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/notable_ios_developer_suggests_api_boycott_to_fight_patent_trolls.php" title="Notable iOS Developer Suggests API Boycott to Fight Patent Trolls">and have decided to call for boycotts</a>:

Mike Lee, a Mac developer and former iOS developer with major contributions to Tap Tap Revenge, Obama '08 and Apple's own retail application, has suggested a radical way to fight back against the patent firms targeting mobile application developers with claims of infringement. It's time for an API boycott, he says. Lee calls the current patent trolling, where firms such as Lodsys and others are threatening to sue developers who don't license patents for technology developments like in-app purchasing buttons and the use of forms, an "untenable situation" for developers. "There is no move we can make that will result in our ultimate survival. Either we pay Lodsys and usher in a new era of extortion, or we refuse to pay and are sued out of business."

Here is a corresponding<a href="http://furbo.org/2011/05/23/predators/" title="Predators">letter to Steve Jobs</a>. We have covered our the Lodsys case before [[cref 48421 1], [cref 48509 2], [cref 48602 3]]. While this may seem to be a case of one bad party , Apple has in fact funded some of these same patent troublemakers. As a result, Apple has helped to enable the trouble that has arisen, and it deserves a lot of flack here. Developers are complaining to Apple, even through the bug reporting system, e.g. <a href="http://twitter.com/architechies/status/70872721772388352">"Filed bug report #9460324 on in-app purchase. Apple needs to do something about these patent-waving clowns."</a>

This case does have relevance to Linux as well. [cref 27770 An Android app died in similar circumstances due to software patents] and Shazam [cref 34809 engaged in equally bad behaviour] although [cref 34839 it had no case]. With similar and very public attacks now being made against iOS app developers, it should be clear by now that software patent abuse is a global issue. It is one that needs to be addressed urgently.

The founder and owner of the patent troll Igoe Intellectual Property, LLC. has now written about this case several times [<a href="http://www.applepatent.com/2011/05/lodsys-what-could-community-do.html" title="Lodsys: What Could the Community Do?">1</a>, <a href="http://twitter.com/PatrickIgoe/statuses/70846940904046592">2</a>, <a href="http://www.applepatent.com/2011/05/lodsys-why-marco-arment-is-wrong.html" title="Lodsys: Why Marco Arment is Wrong.">3</a>], as have other <a href="http://www.applepatent.com/2011/05/lodsys-about-user-perception-of.html" title="Lodsys: 'information about the user's perception of the commodity'">patenting apologists</a>.

As correctly <a href="http://www.macworld.com/article/159979/2011/05/lodsys.html" title="It's not just Apple developers that are threatened by Lodsys">pointed out at Macworld</a>, it is not only developers who should care about this situation. Almost everyone except patent lawyers will be harmed as a result of this non-productive behaviour. Wealth and power is being passed into the hands of a few, non-producing parasites. Their actions are antithetical to the original purpose of patents and the whole concept of a competitive and healthy economy.

Some lawyers <a href="http://www.pocketgamer.biz/r/PG.Biz/news.asp?c=29982" title="Lodsys should 'put up or shut up' says lawyer Jas Purewal">appear to be defecting from their usual party lines</a> as "Software patents become ever more ludicrous," <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2011/may/19/technology-links-newsbucket" title="Boot up: Twitter hits 300m users, Motorola Atrix review, and more">notes The Guardian</a>. Apple <a href="http://www.mercurynews.com/business-headlines/ci_18088265?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&nclick_check=1" title="Apple patent dispute: ITC staff sides with Kodak">might have to change its mind about patents</a> as well if it continues to go under patent fire <a href="http://www.whda.com/blog/2011/05/apple-attack-on-monkeymedia-audiovisual-patent-among-the-reexamination-requests-filed-week-of-may-16-2011/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+whdareexaminationalertblog+%28WHDA+Reexamination+Alert%E2%84%A2+Blog%29" title="Apple Attack on MONKEYmedia Audiovisual Patent, among the Reexamination Requests Filed Week of May 16, 2011">more often than at present</a>. As we noted earlier LL, Apple is currently buying more patents while applying for many more. Meanwhile, GNU/Linux developers are actually writing and contributing code; they are engaged in true innovation.

On this subject, it is too hard to forget Apple's relationship with <a href="http://techrights.org/wiki/index.php/Intellectual_Ventures" title="Intellectual Ventures">IV</a> [cref 48637 backing from Apple], which is essentially a player in the anti-Linux/FOSS cartel. The patents involved in cases like this sometimes come from IV. One must also remember that Apple is on Microsoft's side when it comes to patent hoarding. As a result, Apple will probably just continue to duck when faced with <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/may/18/app-developers-sued-over-patent-claims" title="More app developers sued over patent claims">lawsuits like this one</a>:

Another patent-owning company has targeted app developers on both Apple and Android platforms, intensifying concerns among developers that smartphones are the new hunting ground for so-called "patent trolls".

Yes, Android is affected too. This is not the first time that IV et al. has surfaced in Linux/Android extortion.

On yet another Apple-software-patent issue, Ellison and Jobs have a special relationship as we have mentioned before [cite]. There is reason to suspect that it played a role in the Java lawsuit that Groklaw under Webbink <a href="http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20110520160235142" title="Oracle v. Google - Sweating the details - Updated">continues keep abreast of</a>. To quote the latest postings:

In the two most recent filings in Oracle v. Google we get a glimpse into the contentious nature of this proceeding, with neither side willing to budge a great deal. This shouldn't be overly surprising considering that we have two of the heavyweights of the information technology industry slugging at each other.

Webbink has also been <a href="http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20110517220456915" title="Paul Allen v. World – One At A Time (Or Not) - Updated, Order as text">writing about other Microsoft patent trolls</a>, such as <a href="http://techrights.org/wiki/index.php/Interval" title="Interval">Traul Allen</a>:

Since Groklaw last visited Paul Allen's patent attack on Google and the World, the court has agreed to sever the omnibus complaint into eleven separate ones 229 [PDF]. There is really no great surprise here. The nature of the asserted infringements in the first amended complaint were so unrelated to each other that the court had little choice but to sever.

Allen and IV are not the only Microsoft-tied entities that attack Android. Microsoft does this directly against B&N and Motorola, while Apple extorts HTC and Samsung. <a href="#top">█</a>

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