Another day, another example of a patent system holding back innovation. The latest is that a typical patent troll operation, named Lodsys, is threatening and/or suing a bunch of iOS mobile app developers
for daring to make use of Apple's own in-app payment API to offer the ability to make purchases from within their apps. Lodsys lists out four patents
that "are available for licensing."
- 5,999,908: Customer-based product design module
- 7,133,834: Product value information interchange server
- 7,222,078: Methods and systems for gathering information from units of a commodity across a network
- 7,620,565: Customer-based product design module
It appears that whichever patents Lodsys is using in bringing this claim, it's applying them extremely broadly. Meanwhile, the various developers who have now been sued are pretty freaked out. Most of them appear to be small shops -- perhaps just an individual developer -- whose big "mistake" was to actually use the tools Apple provided to make their software better. I can't see how anyone can defend a lawsuit like this as promoting the progress. The idea that in-app payments wouldn't have come along without these patents is -- on its face, preposterous in the extreme. Putting in-app payments into products is a natural evolution, and any programmer with a modicum of skills could have figured out ways to implement it. To claim that a patent was needed in this arena is simply ridiculous.