Apple, Microsoft and Google bought Lodsys licences

Yesterday we ran a yarn which said that a patent troll was attacking the poor makers of iPhone apps for using its ideas without a licence.

At the time people were wondering if Lodsys was terrified of Jobs’ Mob’s lawyers as it was only going for the small fry and not collecting a slice from Apple.

Today, Lodsys has made an announcement that it is only chasing app developers because Jobs’ Mob has already paid up, as has Google and Microsoft.

This means that while the big software outfits had been encouraging developers to write applications for their mobile products, they had effectively hung them out to dry by not defending them from patent trolls. Microsoft, Apple and Google can afford to make patent trolls go away, but App developers can’t.

It would have been a small matter for the big three to negotiate with Lodsys to allow developers to use its technology. It would have cost them and this might have deterred them.

Lodsys said that the scope of the Big Three’s licences does not let them provide “pixie dust” to bless another business application. Lodsys wants to be paid the most it can for the rights it holds. Economically, the best return is to license each Application vendor for a piece of value, rather than to include in a “buyout” for an OS vendor. Of course it could save itself a lot of time chasing the millions of app developers out there, so it would be interested in doing deals with Apple, Microsoft or Google if the price was right.

It is not surprising then that while Lodsys is open for an OS or device vendor or retailer could contact Lodsys and buy a licence on behalf of its application ecosystem, the big three did not even talk about it, probably because it costs too much.

Lodsys said that although it has had lots of nasty letters no one has actually asked how much one of its licences costs. There are apparently all sorts of scales and tables to be consulted and it is based on the size of the operation. Software that sells a million dollars a year would have to pay Lodsys $5,750 per year.

Of course that is a lot of dosh for a few lines of code but Lodsys points out that app developers also demand money for their lines of code too. All they are doing is asking money for code the developers have already used.

Whatever the logic, application developers might be a little unhappy with the big three. After all they depend on the developers to create them large numbers of apps to make their products attractive. If you were a developer you would hope that if you were doing the work for them, you would get some measure of protection from patent trolls.