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Apple iPhone Developers Sued Over Ways to Access Applications

Seven developers of applications for Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPhone were sued by a Texas company that owns patents for ways to interact with customers through the software programs.

The suit, filed yesterday by Lodsys LLC in Marshall, Texas, came after Apple sent a letter warning the company to leave the developers alone. In the May 23 letter, Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell said Apple has a license to the Lodsys patents and, by extension, its application developers were covered as well.

Closely held Lodsys, which had sent letters to the developers last month demanding licensing fees, said in a posting on its website that it filed the suit faster than it planned “in response to Apple’s threat, in order to preserve its legal options.”

“Apple appeared to give the developer community what they wanted,” Lodsys said on its website. “Unfortunately for developers, Apple’s claim of infallibility has no discernible basis in law or fact.”

Among the companies targeted by the complaint are Combay Inc., maker of Mega Poker Online Texas Holdem; Iconfactory Inc., maker of Twitterrific for the iPhone, iPad and Mac; Shovelmate, developer of 69 Positions; Quickoffice Inc., maker of Quickoffice Connect; Richard Shinderman, who made Hearts and Daggers; and Wulven Game Studios, maker of Shadow Era.

Also named was Illusion Labs AB, which makes Labyrinth for both the iPhone and the Android operating system developed by Google Inc. (GOOG) Neither Apple nor Google was named in the complaint.

Apple Letter

In its letter, Cupertino, California-based Apple claimed that Lodsys was trying to get paid twice for the same use of its patents, and asked Lodsys to “immediately withdraw all notice letters” sent to third-party developers.

“Because Apple is licensed under Lodsys’ patents to offer such technology to its App Makers, the App Makers are entitled to use this technology free from any infringement claims by Lodsys,” Sewell wrote.

The complaint was filed in Marshall, Texas, which is considered to be a favorable venue for patent owners. Some 19 percent of all open patent cases are being handled in the Eastern District that includes Marshall, according to Greg Upchurch, director of research for St. Louis-based LegalMetric Inc., which compiles litigation data for law firms and companies.

The case is Lodsys LLC v. Combay Inc., 11cv272, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (Marshall).

To contact the reporters on this story: Susan Decker in Washington at sdecker1@bloomberg.net; Adam Satariano in San Francisco at asatariano1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Allan Holmes at aholmes25@bloomberg.net; Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net.

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