Looks like the threat of iOS patent troll Lodsys just got a lot less scary for some Apple developers: Apple's stepped up and told Lodsys that its existing license for the '078 patent covers app developers. Macworld has the full text of the letter Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell sent to Lodsys CEO Mark Small, and while there are no earth-shattering revelations, Apple repeatedly says the allegedly-infringing APIs and processes are actually Apple's IP and thus already appropriately-licensed. (That's exactly what we predicted would happen, of course.) Here's the money quote: "Apple is undisputedly licensed to these patents and the App Makers are protected by that license." The big question now is whether Lodsys is willing to take Apple to court in order to challenge that license interpretation; Lodsys would be fairly foolish to have not considered exactly this situation when they formulated their business plan. We'll see what happens, but for the moment things have taken a promising turn.
P.S.- And keep in mind, there's nothing stopping another patent troll from going after small developers with some other random patent Apple doesn't have a existing license for -- this might well just be the tip of the troll iceberg. I would imagine there are some serious conversations going on in Cupertino right now about writing a basic patent indemnification clause into the iOS developer agreements -- and if Google is smart, they're talking about it in Mountain View as well.