iOS developers face patent threats

Apple must defend developers against patent threats, says EFF – Public silence from Cupertino highlights vulnerability of iOS developers, says Julie Samuels” Guardian, (emphasis added)

Apple has been publicly silent since the legal threats were first publicised by worried developers earlier in May – likely less a sign of a lack of concern on its part, and more a sign that its lawyers are scrutinising the threats and the patent that forms their basis.

The EFF is not impressed, though. “Apple’s failure to defend these developers is troubling and highlights at least two larger problems: patent trolls and developers’ vulnerability when harassing and counter-productive patent litigation comes around,” writes Samuels, who links this into a wider trend of small developers without the resources to defend a patent infringement lawsuit being targeted.

What’s different here, however, is that Apple provides this functionality to its developers and requires that they use it. Apple itself is protected from liability – Apple took a licence from Lodsys’ predecessor to use this very patent (which was likely part of a larger blanket licence). And the apparently one-sided Apple-developer agreement does not require that Apple indemnify developers from suits based on technology that Apple provides.

The importance of in-app payments to the iOS platform – something likely to be repeated on Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone in the months ahead – cannot be overstated.

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