Will App Developers Be Scared Away by Lawsuit Threats?

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Are patent infringement lawsuits endangering app development?

PaidContent is reporting that developers are withdrawing their apps from both the U.S. Apple and Android app stores for fear of being sued over intellectual property rights that they may not even be aware of. The report describes a mass exodus of European developers from the American app stores in order to avoid “patent trolls,” with one developer saying that “selling software in the US has already reached the non-viable tipping point.”

(More: Indie iOS Developers Targeted for Legal Action for Patent Inringement)

Of the high-profile patent lawsuits threatening app makers, few are more wide-reaching than the Lodsys case, which even got Apple itself involved. It was also responsible for U.K. developer Simon Maddox declaring that U.S. app stores were “far too dangerous to do business there.” Similarly, U.S. developers are troubled by the potential lawsuits, with Craig Hockenberry, who created “Twitterific” saying that he “became an independent developer to control my own destiny. I no longer do.”

So what does this mean for U.S. app stores? It’s unclear; either developers will have to get used to operating in a lawsuit-rich environment, or some authority—the companies who run the app stores themselves? Some legal authority?—steps in and clears the way, at least partially, for developers to work without fear of accidentally stepping into legally-murky IP waters.

In the immediate future, though, it’s looking more like the former will happen than the latter.

More: Apple to Lodsys: Stop Threatening Our App Makers

Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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