Imagine you’re a developer cranking out apps for the iPad.   Then one day you get a nastygram from a lawyer – for using code that Apple requires you use!

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation,

Lodsys – a troll whose sole business model is owning and suing on patents – has sent letters to many of Apple’s app developers accusing them of infringing a patent that covers the in-app purchasing functionality that Apple provides as part of its operating system. In addition to these accusations, Lodsys’ letters demanded payment.

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

On May 23, Apple sent a firm letter to Lodsys challenging this claim of infringement.  And a lot of developers breathed at least a tentative sigh of relief.

The lesson here is that when a developer is required to incorporate specific technology into software the development agreement should indemnify the developer from third-party claims for infringement.  The other lesson is that developers should have their lawyers read development agreements and licenses before they sign (or click) them.