Patent infringement for iOS in-app store purchases claimed, using Apple's own tactics

Patent infringement for iOS in-app store purchases claimed, using Apple's own tactics

Summary: Hardware 2.0 has the story of two developers who have been ordered to license patents covering in-app purchases from an unnamed company or face legal trouble in 21 days.

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A story is surfacing of a mystery company that is sending cease-and-desist (C&D) letters to iOS app developers using Apple's in-app purchasing technology. Hardware 2.0 has the story of two developers who have been ordered to license the patents from an unnamed company or face legal trouble in 21 days.

I suspect these two developers are just the tip of the iceberg, and as FedEx starts making deliveries this morning in Silicon Valley we'll start hearing of other developers receiving the threatening papers. It is only logical that this company would not just go after two small developers, and that this will be more wide-spread.

While Adrian Kingsley-Hughes points out that this company is taking the cowardly tactic of going after the small app developers and not Apple, this doesn't surprise me. Apple took the same tactic with patent infringement lawsuits against Android, suing HTC instead of Google. The tactic is aimed at going after the parties profiting from the alleged infringement, and not the creator of the infringing technology. The timing of this infringement claim is not surprising, as Apple's big developer conference takes place in just a few weeks.

Hopefully Apple will step up and help developers with these claims. We'll keep our eyes on this unfolding story to bring you details as they appear. If you are a developer and have been contacted by this mystery company, please let us know in the comments.

Image credit: Flickr user H.L.I.T

Topics: Operating Systems, Apple, Mobile OS

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32 comments
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  • Apple's own "tactics"

    No "tactics" here - these are developers using Apple's API's not "tactics" but the official approach.

    There isn't anyone out there that would be interested in trying to stop people developing for iOS now, is there?
    jgpmolloy
    • tactic

      @john@... tactic was referring to going after the ones using the technology rather than the ones who produced it.
      JamesKendrick
      • Nah this is much worse

        @JamesKendrick

        This is akin to a Nigerian scam email hoping to shake down a few suckers. You watch, Apple's legal team is going to stomp all over this.
        oncall
      • Really?

        @JamesKendrick

        A one person shop doing weekend work is HTC making 3.5 billion per quarter?
        Bruizer
      • Really?

        @JamesKendrick

        A one person shop doing weekend work is HTC making 3.5 billion per quarter?
        Bruizer
    • And it has nothing to do with Apple tactics; James just slanders Apple

      @john@... I mean it is quite known that Apple did not sue Google for IP theft because the company does not make any profits of Android directly and there is almost no way how to claim damages. Only phone producers is real goal. The size of the companies has nothing to do with anything -- both Samsung and HTC, among others whom Apple sues, earn billions of dollars of net profits.

      <b>James knows all of it but still wants to slander Apple.</b>
      DDERSSS
      • RE: Patent infringement for iOS in-app store purchases claimed, using Apple's own tactics

        @denisrs <br><br> ... wow! Did you really take that from James blog? Take off your Cupertino glasses and you might see that that is EXACTLY what James was saying. To whit: Apple's tactic (rightfully) was to sue where there was money earned by infringement and NOT sue where there was no profit. The issuers of the C&D are doing the same thing. They are sending C&Ds to developers who make money by using the, alledgedly, infringing technology. <br><br>This isn't a 'slander Apple' piece at all. Yeesh ...
        noagenda
      • However

        @noagenda

        Apple does make money from in-app purchases, in fact Apple is THE big money maker from this system. So no, this group is not going where the money is being made, they are deliberately harassing small time app makers probably because they expect these guys to lack funds for any legal defense.
        oncall
      • RE: Patent infringement for iOS in-app store purchases claimed, using Apple's own tactics

        @oncall
        First, please don't think I condone patent trolls or the plethora of patent marking trolls out there.

        Secondly, as I read the patent, they are claiming it is the method transferring information, by clicking on the upgrade button within the app that is in violation. Since Apple doesn't specificly make any money by directly using the upgrade button (its in the app ... owned by the developer) there is little money to be gained. The developer makes money by using the, allegedly infringing 'button' ... Apple merely takes a commission for the dollars the developer makes. Either way, it pretty scummy ...
        noagenda
      • Isn't in-app purchases enabled

        @noagenda

        By Apple's supplied API in addition to Apple requiring that developers only use Apple's provided API's?
        oncall
      • RE: Patent infringement for iOS in-app store purchases claimed, using Apple's own tactics

        @onecall<br><br>Yes it is enabled by Apple but just like Google enabling the handset makers by giving away Android, the money 'target' resides with those who PROFIT from the alleged infringement. In the case Android and Google, they make no money directly from Android but the handset makers do. Therefore, anyone contemplating gaining $ (and I am not saying I condone the Google/Android suit either) from a suit go where the $ using the infringment reside. <br>I know it sounds squirrely but since the object is to gain $, there is no point in suing the enabler, only those who make money using ...
        noagenda
      • Sorry I have to disagree

        @noagenda

        Apple makes, provides and says you must use their API then collects 30% every time it is used. That's the only way I can see it. Then this company goes and sues makers of single 0.99 kids apps knowing they have no money for even a half-hearted legal defense or even most likely money to do anything but fold up shop. Sorry this is not Apple vs HTC, not even close, not even same ballpark.

        Now if this company goes after somebody with actual money using in-app purchases then I might be more inclined to see it another way.
        oncall
      • RE: Patent infringement for iOS in-app store purchases claimed, using Apple's own tactics

        @oncall<br><br>That is your perogative <img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/happy.gif" alt="happy"><br><br>I am just pointing out that to gather in any money, you have to be able to demonstrate 'harm'. The fact that Apple provides anyone the tools to do damage doesn't cause harm. Using the tools does. Now had Apple indemnified the developers for using those tools ... the holder of the patent would be naming the issuer of that indemnification as a defendant in any litigation. <br>Think gun manufacturer vs criminal who uses the manufacturer's gun. The gun maker isn't likely to be successfully sued for merely making the tool the criminal used to wrongfully injure someone (although in the US .... !).
        noagenda
      • noagenda, I thought Apple just changed their rules

        @denisrs
        that say they now get a cut of any outside content obtained thru an app on the phone. Like if someone downloads a Rhapsody App, then signs up for a subscription at Rhapsody then streams or gets music from there.

        Isn't this the same thing? You download a free app, then purchase the upgrade directly from the developer - Apple gets a cut.
        Will Pharaoh
      • RE: Patent infringement for iOS in-app store purchases claimed, using Apple's own tactics

        @Will Pharaoh
        Ahhh but the 'cut' is for the transaction happening at their store. The developer's 'cut' is enabled by the end user using the (absurd as it is) 'protected IP' of the patent holder.
        noagenda
    • I think you misunderstood the 'tactics' comment

      @john@...

      Read the article again... I think you'll find that he was referring to Apples 'tactics' of suing the smaller players (handset makers like HTC etc) than taking on the big gorilla (Google)

      So the 'tactics' comment had nothing to do with the developers.
      iTeaBoy
    • Conspiracy theories on the first post?

      @john@...
      I doubt any company is trying to stop people from creating for iOS, instead some little company got a patent years ago (for something they shouldn't have) with the hope that they'll be able to make money off of it someday.
      Will Pharaoh
    • Might that anyone be a company whose name...

      ...starts with a Micro and ends with a Soft...

      Although this story sounds like a conspiracy theory, there should be laws that persecute this "pseudo-legal" harassment (which could be a form of racketeering and extortion). If the company had any legal footing, they should be forced to settle in the court system, not on any other plaza, else this would be just another one (of the many thousands) of new nails on American capitalism's coffin.
      cosuna
  • Get the lawyers

    Is there a patent lawyer in the house? Without knowing whether Apple would have even had a claim against Google, it is not possible to know whether suing HTC was a matter of choosing 'a little guy' to beat up on, or the only course allowed under the law since Google itself was not actually selling anything that violated the patent.
    Robert Hahn
    • Google can't just give away someone else's IP

      @Robert Hahn
      with the idea they'll profit from in indirectly and not be accountable.

      I doubt the courts would charge someone with simple theft if they took Coke's secret recepie and just gave it to Pepsi to reproduce.

      Sure Google didn't directly make any money if they used stolen IP without permission, but they could still be held accountable for damages as they released the IP in the software they created free for all to use, thus taking revenue from the company that created it.
      Will Pharaoh