The threats accuse devs of patent infringement regarding Apple’s in-app purchase mechanism, but the patent holder appears to be targeting independent developers individually instead of going after Apple itself.
The threats are from Lodsys, a “patent holding firm” (a company, offering no products or services, whose sole purpose is to accumulate patents and extort fees from people who accidentally infringe them), citing patent 7222078 with this abstract:
In an exemplary system, information is received at a central location from different units of a commodity. The information is generated from two-way local interactions between users of the different units of the commodity and a user interface in the different units of the commodity. The interactions elicit from respective users their perceptions of the commodity.
My brain melted when I tried to mentally summarize this patent and figure out if it applied to in-app purchase, but in practice, it doesn’t really matter — like nearly any intellectual-property infringement threat in the U.S., even if it’s inapplicable or invalid, very few independent developers have the money, time, and willpower to fight back.
Either Apple needs to help or indemnify all developers somehow (I’m not sure how that works, legally, but some people have mentioned it as an option), or only the largest and richest corporations will be able to use in-app purchase in their apps.
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