Developers pleased with Apple's Lodsys response

While a legal battle could still be ahead, developers are breathing a sigh of relief after Apple came to their defense against a group seeking licensing fees to use the in-app purchase feature.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
3 min read
The in-app purchase icon.
The in-app purchase icon. Apple

Apple today finally responded to Lodsys, the group that's been targeting iOS developers for licensing fees on their use of in-app purchase (IAP). While Lodsys has not yet issued its own response, many developers are now breathing a sigh of relief based on Apple's stance, which states that developers are fully protected against any extra fees by the company's patent licensing terms.

"DEAR STEVE I WANT TO KISS YOU HUGS CHOCK," tweeted Craig Hockenberry, the principal and senior software engineer at The Iconfactory, the makers of the popular Twitterific app. Hockenberry had posted a public letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs shortly before the company began sending its letters to affected developers, wherein Hockenberry called Lodsys "greedy predators" and said the group threatened the entire platform.

"What these predators don't realize is that for every developer who's earning millions, there are many thousands who are earning much less," Hockenberry wrote. "This backbone of the iOS ecosystem is doing well with work we love, but that is very much at risk with increased legal costs."

Hockenberry later tweeted, "I should e-mail Steve Jobs more often."

James Thomson, the maker of the PCalc app, who was one of the first to get hit with a notice from Lodsys, said simply that "our long international nightmare is over." In an interview with Macworld, Thomson described the last ten days as "some of the most stressful" in his professional career.

Lodsys first began sending notices to developers earlier this month, alerting them to the fact that their applications were infringing on a patent the group held by using IAP. The company gave developers 21 days to respond, before threatening legal action. The group offered up a licensing deal for developers to pay 0.575 percent of U.S. revenue from their applications, in return for being able to use IAP within their apps. Apple did not weigh in on the issue until its letter this morning, where the company said it, along with its app makers are "undisputedly licensed" to use IAP.

Emanuele Vulcano, the maker of iOS app Mover never received one of these letters from Lodsys, but nonetheless removed IAP from the free version of the app out of fear of being targeted, and described Lodsys' actions as having a "chilling effect." Vulcano this morning announced that he was bringing IAP back to the app immediately as a result of Apple's letter.

Daniel Jalkut, the founder of Mac-centric Red Sweater Software, rounded out the other developer reactions, saying, "I've never seen iOS developers so excited about the walled garden."

Julie Samuels, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation who last week wrote a post saying that Apple needed to step up and defend developers, said Apple's response was "the right thing."

"We were really happy to see Apple take a public stand and defend the folks who come up with the apps that make us all love our iPhones. It's the right thing--both morally and from a business perspective," Samuels wrote an e-mail to CNET. "It took a little longer than we'd have liked--so many developers were really left in the lurch last week with the proverbial Sword of Damocles over their head, but better late than never. Now the developers can get back to what they do best: develop new apps."

Morgan Reed, executive director of the Association for Competitive Technology said the group, which represents around 3,000 technology firms, was similarly happy with Apple's response.

"The developer community is pleased that Apple has taken steps to reassure app makers regarding Lodsys's licensing demands," Reed said in a statement. "Lodsys in-app purchasing technology is already licensed by Apple. Developers share that company's understanding that in-app purchasing applications written for its iOS platform are covered under this license. Lodsys has created uncertainty in the apps marketplace and we hope that it will take the appropriate step to withdraw its unwarranted licensing demands."

It remains to be seen when or how Lodsys will react to Apple's letter. In it, Apple's senior vice president and general counsel, Bruce Sewell requested that the company immediately withdraw notices sent to developers requesting that they strike up licensing deals, calling such assertions "false." So far Lodsys CEO Mark Small and any of the company's other representatives have declined to speak with press on the matter, relaying information to its blog instead.