As dozens of app developers look to the horizon, hoping for Apple and Google to make Lodsys go away on their behalf, some are taking matters into their own hands.
One, a college sophomore named Michael Karr who developed an app called 69 Positions (don't ask), figured he'd waited long enough for the cavalry and agreed to take a license from Lodsys.
“As an independent developer in my sophomore year at college, I simply didn’t have the funds to continue on with the lawsuit," wrote Karr, in an email to paidContent. "I had hoped that Apple would have been able to intervene by now and potentially even offer some sort of blanket coverage for the small developers, but this has not been the case. I believe I made the best possible decision I could bearing the circumstances.”
Karr did not comment on what his parents think of his app's subject matter.
Meanwhile, GroupCamp - a cloud-based business software firm targeted by Lodsys - chose to fight back. Figuring there's strength in numbers, Paris-based GroupCamp has set up a website dedicated to "joining forces against Lodsys patents" where its fellow defendants can compare notes and legal strategies - and maybe find the prior art that will take Lodsys down.
"GroupCamp has decided to launch an initiative in an effort to help companies who are or will be in the same situation," the company explains in a press release. "The initiative aims at sharing all the public knowledge on the Lodsys patents and publish or refer to existing prior art research against the surviving claims of the Lodsys patents."
So the choice is whether to settle, or stand and fight - since help from the big guys doesn't seem to be on the way (yet). Most will likely settle, since it's pretty affordable. This blogger did the math and found that an app developer who made $42,000 in revenue would have to pay Lodsys a grand total of $241.50, based on Lodsys' low royalty rate of 0.575% of all United States revenue. That's not much for an individual developer, but multiply it by the many developers who have received the infamous Lodsys letter, and it adds up to a tidy amount.
Will a group of developers manage to take Lodsys down? Will Google or Apple swoop in to save the day? Either way, it's a safe bet that the Lodsys matter will provide entertainment (and blog fodder) for months to come.
It's an ugly truth that, even when one is safely on the moral high ground, it's often advisable to settle, rather than to continue fighting in court. Which is a particular shame in this case, since most seem to agree that the developers are in the right and Lodsys is exhibiting "extortionist" behavior. When Lodsys targets give up and pay up, that only encourages the company to engage further in troll-like actions. Apple's failure to be more proactive in this matter will likely cause small developers to be more wary of creating apps; and, consequently, it's possible that the world will even miss out on valuable new technological advances.
I'm one of those small developers. The software patent arena is just too f'd up to risk my retirement nest egg. My insurance company wants a $25,000 premium to cover patent infringement ... and based on what I've seen of the software patent landscape I'm probably violating at least a couple with every app I write. Somebody needs to write a spoof ad to cheer me up... "Ever searched a linked list looking for an invalid record? There's a patent for that. Ever made your user double click to activate functionality? There's a patent for that too." And on and on.