Could Lodsys turn its sights on Microsoft Windows 8 developers?

Could Lodsys turn its sights on Microsoft Windows 8 developers?

Summary: Lodsys has not gone after Windows developers with claims that they're violating the company's in-app purchasing patents. But could this happen with Windows 8?

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Lodsys, the Texas-based company that has been suing smaller iOS, Android and BlackBerry developers over alleged infringement of its in-app purchasing through an app store patent, hasn't targeted in a substantial way Microsoft developers -- yet.

But that doesn't mean some Windows developers aren't thinking ahead about that possibility, especially for Windows 8, which will have its own app store.

I received the following e-mail from a Windows developer this week:

"I am a Windows developer who is planning to develop a Metro app. However, I have reservations about this because Microsoft has not said anything about what it plans to do to protect Metro developers from Lodsys. As you may know, Lodsys is the patent troll currently suing many small iOS and Android developers (and sending infringement notices to many more developers) because mobile apps allow in-app purchasing through an app store, which Lodsys claims is covered by their patent.

"Any Windows developers interested in developing Metro apps will be exposing themselves to a possible lawsuit from Lodsys because Microsoft is planning to use the same type of in-app purchasing system for Metro apps that iOS developers must use."

The developer asked what Microsoft was intending to do to head off these kinds of Lodsys threats. I put the question to Microsoft and received the following statement from a spokesperson:

“We are licensed to the Lodsys patents and also have a robust and industry leading indemnification policy for customers of Microsoft products and services. To your reader’s question about developers specifically, this is not a typical indemnification scenario since it involves someone else’s product/application.  However, again, Microsoft is licensed to the Lodsys patents so it is not something developers should be concerned about.”

Florian Mueller, IP analyst and founder of the FOSS Patents blog, said he has been contacted in recent months by a couple of Windows developers who've received letters from Lodsys over Windows PC (not Windows Phone).

Mueller said he believed it is time for the tech giants to go after Lodsys.

Mueller said "I believe all platform companies -- Apple, Google, Microsoft and RIM -- should take joint action against Lodsys and provide meaningful, reliable guarantees to their app developers that they're fully covered if Lodsys sues them over the four patents it currently lists on its website. Those large platform makers have a responsibility and I don't think any one of them has done nearly enough to respond to this issue, which is disappointing. Blanket coverage for small developers is the only real solution in connection with Lodsys, but no platform company provides it.

While Microsoft does have a "very customer-friendly indemnification policy," Lodsys can still sue developers, arguing it is their applications, not the operating systems, that infringe its patents, Mueller said. He added that while Apple also claims to be licensed the same way Microsoft does -- and has even sent notice to Lodsys claiming that its in-app purchase license applies to its developers -- Lodsys is still going after iOS developers. In fact, earlier this week, one iOS developer settled with Lodsys after he was sued earlier this year, claiming he didn't have money to pursue a lawsuit.

Any Windows developers out there heard from Lodsys about patent-infringement claims -- or nervous about the possibility of this happening?

Topics: Microsoft, Apps, Legal, Software Development, Windows

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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18 comments
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  • I knew it was just a matter of time ...

    ... before patents start disrupting the software ecosystem.

    By the way, Zdnet, your comment system is unreliable, and has been this way, on and off, for a long time now. Can't you hire someone to fix it once and for all? Thank you.
    P. Douglas
    • comment system

      Hi. Yes the powers that be know our comment system needs another overhaul badly. They're working on it, they tell us. Sorry for the inconvenience. We want it fixed, too, believe me! MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
      • Thanks

        .
        P. Douglas
  • Lodsys *has* gone after Windows developers

    I know of at least two Windows desktop software developers that have been threatened by Lodsys. I'm one of them! Unfortunately for them, my software predates all of their patents by years.
    gelfr
  • Double Standard?

    Why should Lodsys have less right to protect its Intellectual Property than Microsoft?
    ldo17
    • RE: Could Lodsys turn its sights on Microsoft Windows 8 developers?

      @ldo17

      Because... has Lodsys even made a product? I can't think of a single thing they've made, they just filed patents on a system that they thought people would eventually use. They then started to sue.

      They are patent trolls.
      Michael Alan Goff
      • Re: Double Standard?

        @Michael Alan Goff But Microsoft has been doing its own "trolling" against Linux and its derivatives, like Android, that it had no hand in developing. Why should one be allowed to be a "troll", but not the other?
        ldo17
      • RE: Could Lodsys turn its sights on Microsoft Windows 8 developers?

        No, they made a product and are suing.<br><br>What have these people made?

        Edit: But it is still pointless, simply not trolling. There is a difference.
        Michael Alan Goff
  • Sounds like Monopoly, Of course they can

    <b>Thank's for the explanation Mary!</b>

    Starting to understand more and more what's Metro all about. It standing clear it's an approach in create monopoly in the business from Microsoft's behalf.

    Oh boy, will the world have a chance wake up before it's too late?

    Thank's for telling, time to act
    Thorsland
    • RE: Could Lodsys turn its sights on Microsoft Windows 8 developers?

      @Thorsland

      Except that they have threatened Windows devs as well, if you'd bother to read the talkbacks.
      Michael Alan Goff
    • RE: Could Lodsys turn its sights on Microsoft Windows 8 developers?

      @Thorsland I would say the MS has a long way to go to catch up to Apple and Android before they even start to think about a monopoly "in this business" . . .
      rmark@...
  • RE: Could Lodsys turn its sights on Microsoft Windows 8 developers?

    IMHO Apple, Google, and Microsoft need to buy Lodsys, fire all of those scumbags, and agree that the patents from that purchase be shared freely among themselves.
    athynz
  • Microsoft, really?

    In the past, the key point of Microsoft software and development tools and technologies is that they do offer protection to the users, developers, and even hardware makers selling their products.

    Even when Microsoft can't legally step in to circumvent a lawsuit, they obligate themselves to provide legal funding, lawyers, and resources, and if the lawsuit fails, compensate to the developers, end-users, hardware vendors.

    So why the focus on Windows 8 and Microsoft here?

    Out of all the companies and platforms in the world, Microsoft and their platforms are the safest to develop for in the world.

    Do you see Apple suing over WP7 devices, do you see Apple suing tablet makers that look exactly like an iPad but are running Windows 7?

    Do you see software patent trolls suing Microsoft partners and developers over codecs, and various other technologies?

    As for the 'talkback' above, if you were threatened by Lodsys, you better be in contact with Microsoft, as you ahve protections that they guarantee you, and will be assisting you if the threat is serious. However, since you didn't mention Microsoft's assistance in the matter, I would say you are not telling the truth, or truly don't realize you have several levels of indemnification from Microsoft available to you.

    MaryJo, you have always tried to get 'sensational' headlines, and admitedly do not have a high level of technical understanding, but this article is beyond your usual 'click grabber', and disappointing.

    This is creating a fire where there is no smoke, and harming your readers by scaring them away from pursing ventures that could be profitable to them.

    -Truly disappointed by this article.


    PS...
    Why not go back to the Apple developer lawsuits from Lodsys and follow up with real questions...

    Like:

    ??? After Apple was unable to step into the lawsuit, why did they stop trying to help developers?

    ??? Why did Apple craft their developer agreement in a way to separate themselves from their developers, which helped Lodsys by establishing a wall between Apple and their developers?

    ??? Why does Apple NOT offer their developers or users any indemnification in their licensing/agreements?

    ??? Why has Apple taken no responsibility for the legal bills for their developers out of good will at the very least?

    ??? Does Apple have no understanding that a lawsuit like this could financially cripple a person for their entire lifetime?

    ??? Why didn't Apple set up a legal defense fund or provide lawyers to assist the developers in the lawsuits?

    ??? Why has Apple not sought a class action settlement or obtained a transferable license for the technology?

    ???Ect, Ect...
    thenetavenger
  • RE: Could Lodsys turn its sights on Microsoft Windows 8 developers?

    So Apple and Microsoft actually paid Lodsys to license their patents?

    This is why we can't have nice things. Seriously, that's the sort of penny wise, pound foolish, short-sighted thinking that'll undermine their entire business model in the lon run.
    dsf3g
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