Apple cannot enforce app store ‘disclaimer’ on Android, says court

©Apple (Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia) The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Apple can continue to be judged for unreasonably delaying decisions about whether its software might infringe on patents….

Apple cannot enforce app store 'disclaimer' on Android, says court

©Apple

(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)

The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Apple can continue to be judged for unreasonably delaying decisions about whether its software might infringe on patents.

In Apple’s case, the case surrounds the use of code in the App Store. In the US and Australia, most mobile apps are licensed from developers; there’s a cut of the sale, then royalties if the app takes off. But across much of the world, developers are taking platforms like Apple’s and Google’s Android and defining software exactly as they see fit, taking the cut and the royalty and not complying with the terms of their agreement.

While app stores have always been a difficult place to argue a case, now Apple is facing a race to the bottom in what works and what doesn’t. The company has put in place a rulebook that gives app developers the ability to flag usage of a code vector that might infringe on their patent. If a developer doesn’t comply, Apple can demand it immediately stop using the code and give it five days to do so; this was an agreement Apple made with developers.

However, an injunction in the case was ordered, meaning that Apple had to stop the practice of demanding patent infringers to stop using the code until a hearing was held. But Apple had argued that the ruling itself was unreasonable, and yesterday, the court agreed.

“Applying the evidence before us, Apple failed to show that the district court’s injunction was not reasonable,” the three-judge panel ruled.

“Because we hold that Apple can appeal such a preliminary injunction, Apple is no longer obligated to implement Apple’s notification scheme.”

It’s important that Apple still be allowed to ask that app developers cease using the code. It allows Apple to strengthen its position in cases where it uses its patents to sue Android developers for copyright infringement, for example. This means that users may be able to use the code throughout, or that Apple will be able to tell an app developer to stop using it.

But it’s still a problem.

“The decision to live with the novel patent issues by compensating app developers is just a step short of continuing to litigate infringement against Apple’s own app store,” George Ou, an intellectual property lawyer at Altman Vilandrie, told Gizmodo.

“Because the court ultimately dismissed Apple’s challenge to the injunction, the next obstacle is the claim construction hearing on the specific patent at issue. The district court’s order will either stand or Apple will prevail on every claim that it contends that it infringed.”

Here’s hoping.

Read the full ruling (PDF) here.

Now playing: Watch this: iPhone X battery life problems were Google’s fault

First published 2 June at 16:57 BST.

Update 6 June at 12:59 BST: Adds detail on the ruling.

I’m a journalist, not a patent troll, so the next time you’re turned off by the scammy name, don’t feel bad. Having filed 27 patent applications and received 1 office date, I’m still getting plenty of abuse — it’s a sign that we, the trolls, have an impact. We’re currently contesting cases all over the world. It’s a lot of work, but I don’t mind that much. My lawyer brokered a settlement of almost $200,000 which made the situation better than I could have ever imagined. I’m now writing about it for CNET and, after some years spent working with independent developers, I’m enjoying it.

Have questions? Email [email protected]

Leave a Comment