Update: Cory Trese's infringement notice was apparently sent to him by mistake - whatever that means. He received a call from Lodsys stating they'd like all the materials they sent returned. What's happened? Who knows, but as someone in our team chat room sarcastically stated - maybe they forgot a zero somewhere.
This isn't a friendly letter. In fact, it's probably downright terrifying as a prospect to most developers, and understandably so. Lodsys has essentially been sending extortion letters to developers claiming they infringe on a patent that probably isn't even related to smartphones. The claim, at its core, asserts that Lodsys's patent (No. 7,222,078) encompasses most forms of in-app purchasing on any smartphone platform.
The patent itself clearly has nothing to do with in-app purchases on smartphones. But, there is an argument it could be applied that way (what that argument is, I don't know).
When you receive a settlement offer, you're basically given two choices: accept the offer, or get sued. The offer usually has a limited acceptance window (2 weeks, a month - whatever), so as to light a virtual fire under scared developers' rear-ends. The offer being given to developers that we've seen so far requires a lump sum payment (think thousands of dollars) - though royalty offers could be made as well, in the case of more profitable apps.
Without assistance (or at least, reassurance) from Google, individual developers are in a jam - one they should never have been in to start with. Developers are, as Mr. Trese insightfully put it, being sued for little more than using the Android SDK. That's not right. Google knows it's not right - and it needs to make a statement. This isn't just a legal issue, it's people's livelihoods being blindsided by one of the truly abominable blights upon the American patent system.
So, Google, let's make sure no one has to pay up or lawyer up without a damn good reason - do what's right and protect the developer community Android would be nothing without.