Patent troll Lodsys goes for iPhone app programmers

A patent troll is making legal threats against iPhone app programmers rather than taking on the might of Apple directly.

Several iOS programmers have received a legal complaint from Lodsys, a patent-holding firm.

The outfit claims developers have infringed on a patent related to the usage of an “upgrade” button, which customers can use to upgrade from a free version of an app to a paid version, or to make purchases from within an app.

However, the technology comes from Apple, which allows programmers to embed it in their apps. Strangely Lodsys did not feel the need to go for Apple, but went for the programmers.

According to Ars Technica,  those who have received the letter include James Thomson, creator of the scientific calculator app PCalc; Dave Castelnuovo, creator of Pocket God; and Matt Braun, developer of the iPhone game MASH.

Lodsys laywers are demanding that the programmers negotiate for a licence to use the “upgrade” technology within 21 days, or a lawsuit will be filed.

Lodsys is based in East Texas, which is jolly handy because of the nearby federal court, known to favour patent holders.

What worries the developers is that it is too expensive for them to defend the case. It’s not clear if Apple will get involved. At the moment it is not making any comments.

Ars thinks it is likely that Apple will have to get involved. Lodsys’ action could deter developers from building apps for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.