back to article Apple silences mute kids' speech app in patent blowup

Apple is accused of silencing children after its App Store pulled an iPad speech synthesiser that gave mute youngsters a voice. Touchscreen-controlled software Speak For Yourself allowed kids with speech problems to use a picture-based on-screen keyboard to string words into sentences, which were then spoken by their iThing. …


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  1. ukgnome

    Way to go apple - bad to the core!

    If you had any kind of compassion in your cold black hearts you would buy the software rights and give it away free with an iPad to families with kids with this condition.

    I say to the families that use, or was about to use this app to contact the Bill Gates foundation and ask them for an alternative device. My betting is that uncle Bill would happily put his hand in his pocket.

    Once again, can I just say apple are twunts!

    1. JetSetJim

      no no no...

      Don't pay the b*stards - get the patents invalidated. The articles linked patents have around 130 claims each and filing dates of 1995 & 1997, with a lot of duplication - shouldn't be too hard to get most of them knocked on the head with prior art (e.g. the software redefinable keys are present on lots & lots of devices, from ATMs to phones and even regular keyboards - thems were the days, mucking around with xmodmap). I think there's even a desktop keyboard out nowadays with OLED displays on the keys to display your own customisations. Text-to-speech has been around for donkeys, so I won't go there. The patents seem to describe a way of generating an encoded sequence of symbols which are then synthesised into speech (err, like written words can do, yes?). The "clever" bit is clumping word types into groups represented by a symbol - e.g. "moving verbs" brings up a keyboard with "run", "jump", "walk", etc... Don't a load of old text based RPG things do that by redefining the action associated with integer menu selections?

      1. Soruk

        Re: no no no...

        Software redefinable keys:

        Prior art in 1981: The BBC Micro had *KEY which could redefine the F0-F9, Break, Arrow and Copy keys.

        1. Haku

          Re: no no no...

          Prior art - lexigram keyboards, created for primates to interact with researchers.

      2. Chris 3

        Re: no no no...

        Perhaps something like a Kickstarter campaign to hire a decent patent attorney to fight them?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ukgnome - Apple is doing the right thing here

      In my opinion It's not Apple that has a black could heart here, it's the lawyers. Apple is not a charity and surely they are not above the law, especially when their large pockets well lined with green stuff make them an appealing target for IP trolls.

      Best part of this story is that it can be taught as a valuable lesson illustrating the real meaning of software freedom. This is what RMS is barking about and nobody bothers to listen. It is not and it has never been about compiling the Linux kernel, it is about using the software to limit end-user freedom. Of course if the parents of that unfortunate little girl are willing to pay for precious Intellectual property, she will have a bright future and the innovation will thrive unhindered.

      1. sisk

        Re: Apple is doing the right thing here

        Bull. Apple is in no danger of legal threats related to this app at this time. Unless and until the courts hand down an injuction they are under no legal obligation to pull any app from the app store. Basically they're doing the job of a patent judge here, which they have no business doing. That's pretty much in line with standard Apple practices, but in this case, where people with a particular handicap are dependant upon the app in question it's particularly insidious.

        In short, this was an evil act by a corporation that has become a serial offender

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Sean Timarco Baggaley


          Seriously? This is all Apple's fault now, despite their being only the retailer in this case?

          Despite PRC making it clear that not only were the offending app's developers fully aware of their dodgy legal position?

          To all those who think Apple are in the wrong here: Apple could become liable for damages if the software in question was found to be infringing on valid patents. No, a court does NOT need to make a judgement before this happens. Apple clearly sent out letters asking for clarification of the situation to BOTH parties. It seems clear that they thought the PRC guys may indeed have a legal leg to stand on. (They might be wrong, but it's the corporate lawyer's job to protect their employer, not some random third party.)

          Apple didn't invent the US' patent laws, but they DO have to abide by them. Just like every other US citizen and corporation.

          Don't like your country's laws? Get off your apathetic arse and get them changed. That's YOUR job. You don't just get to sit there in front of your computer and demand other people and corporations selectively ignore laws you, personally, don't like.

          1. Sirfoxelot

            Re: @sisk:

            "Apple didn't invent the US' patent laws, but they DO have to abide by them. Just like every other US citizen and corporation."

            Give them time.

            Im sure in the future they will Claim they did invent the Patent laws, find a way to Patent them and then sue the Patent office for daring to use their idea

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Anonymous Coward - Apple is a toothless grishna cat

        They bang on about their IP but had let the app in question on their app store. Hardly blameless - in most countries harbouring a criminal is a crime itself. They are just covering their arse (but not before taking the usual 30% from the app in question though sales)

        The whole thing sounds like some doctors have developed the software (essential a talking flash card) in a manner which is affordable to most people. And another team of richer doctors have taken um-bridge at the fact their expensive version of talking flash cards that they developed a while back is no longer top of the charts.

        It Still stinks though

    3. Anomynous Coward

      For info - statement from Prentke Romich

      Posted on June 12, 2012

      Last week Prentke Romich Company (PRC) learned that Apple removed a language assistance app from its iTunes® store pending the outcome of a patent infringement lawsuit filed against the company that developed the iPad® app.

      PRC and the licensor of the Unity™ system that powers our language devices jointly filed the lawsuit after our patent attorney found numerous instances of infringement on Unity patents in the “Speak for Yourself” app. Apple has a process that allows third parties to provide notice of infringement concerns as part of its terms and conditions. Accordingly, we reached out to Apple on two occasions. We provided Apple with a copy of the lawsuit, expressing our concerns about the “Speak for Yourself” app. We then responded to a later request from Apple asking for an update on the lawsuit. Last week, Apple elected to remove the app.

      The Unity system is the result of the long commitment and hard work of Bruce Baker and his company, Semantic Compaction Systems (SCS). His life’s work, which he has refined over decades, created life-changing technology that has given a voice to thousands of individuals with profound disabilities. SCS and PRC filed the patent infringement lawsuit after we reached out to the app company’s founders and offered various business solutions, but were refused.

      It is important to emphasize that while there are many useful language apps in the marketplace, “Speak for Yourself” is the only app named in the lawsuit because of its flagrant infringements on Unity patents.

      There’s a reason patents are in place, to protect decades of hard work and research that go into our devices. To take someone’s life work and market it as your own is simply wrong. The founders of the company marketing this app are speech-language pathologists who were trained by PRC, and who used their knowledge of the Unity system to develop a Unity-like app of their own and market it in the Apple iTunes store.

      We do recognize that new consumer technology, such as tablet-based apps, are playing a useful role in assistive technology, although it is unlikely they will be the best option for all clients. We intend to participate in this space but will only do so in a way that supports the best possible language outcomes for those clients with severe communications disorders.

      1. jestersbro
        Thumb Down

        Re: For info - statement from Prentke Romich

        Does it looks like Prentke Romich Company (PRC) have put their twopenneth in? Anonymous Coward?

        1. Anomynous Coward

          Re: For info - statement from Prentke Romich

          "Does it looks like Prentke Romich Company (PRC) have put their twopenneth in? Anonymous Coward?"

          Blimey, thanks for the downvotes, I just copied and pasted from the company's website as it seemed like it might save people the effort of looking it up themselves.

          1. mad_dr
            Thumb Up

            Re: For info - statement from Prentke Romich

            Yeah, but on every level this is all about knee-jerk reactions and condemnations: PRC condemning Speak for Yourself, Apple doing the same and a selection of of us commentards condemning Apple for listening to its lawyers and PRC for bringing the lawsuit (whether justified or not), so the downvotes (whilst completely misdirected) are clearly par for the course in this thread. :)

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think that this is just one more example of the misuse of the copyright/patent laws. People everywhere should put pressure on their government to reform copyright/patent laws so that these laws will be used to accomplish good instead of the current use of these laws as a club to kill competition.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Just another case of blaming apple for something that's not really apples fault, blame the US and its retarded patent system. Only a bunch of monkeys in suits would think any of this was a good idea, if you don't like it fight to get it fixed.

      2. Fibbles

        'I think that this is just one more example of the misuse of the copyright/patent laws.'

        Software patents have nothing to do with copyright.

        Perhaps the solution would be to move the company to Europe and release an android app since they can be side-loaded far more easily?

  2. nexsphil


    Apple could just drop the pretence and switch to red pointy tails and tridents for all staff. "Bohemian" and "intellectual" people (read soulless and obsessed with primate "display") will still defend them til the end. Honestly, I find it personally insulting that these people are of my species.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ok so no more updates

    but does that mean that your currently working version no longer will? does it get deleted from your ipad if it has been removed from the app store?

    That aside, software patents are still bullshit.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Ok so no more updates

      Nope. If an App gets removed, the people who've got it, get to keep it. But, as the article says, no updates.

      I believe Apple do have a remote kill switch, but only to be used on security threats. Although they're obviously subject to court orders, and occasional acts of random whimsy...

  4. JimmyPage

    I hope this backfires on Premtke - and Apple

    I almost bought an iPad, just so I could boycott it ....

    Software patents are ludicrous anyway, but using them to prop up fleecing the less-abled is stomach churning.

    However, a quick look through the Android store shows quite a few free TTS apps, so hopefully people know what do do.

    I don't want to go all hippy, but my wife has MS and impaired vision, and the number of FOSS apps available for her Wildfire is humbling - there are a lot of people out there who are starting to make real quality of life improvements.

  5. Tom 7 Silver badge

    The audacity of these people

    thinking you could actually charge for something like this and I'm not just talking about apple.

    A FLOSS one for android would be good.

  6. g e

    Just switch to an alternate app repository

    Oh. Wrong operating system. Sorry.

    Amazing how fast Apple will bend over rather than stand fast when it suits them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just switch to an alternate app repository

      Right, because takedowns couldn't be sent to alternate app repositories... They might as well go into Cydia as it is...

      Being restricted to marginal markets is clearly not this company's goal.

  7. frank ly

    FOSS to the rescue?

    Apple are simply protecting themselves, as you'd expect them to do. I have sympathy for the developers of this marvellous application and cannot understand why the patent defense of 'obvious to anyone with a bit of knowledge and imagination' cannot be used. I would think that the target market is not very visible, well known or profitable; hence the dearth of affordable 'solutions'.

    Enter FOSS..... A small group of developers should be able to turn out a very nice application along these lines, running on Android or Windows (for general accessibility) and make it available as a free download. (The only 'tricky' bit I can think of is the speech library - but that can be produced by volunteers if a free one isn't available.)

    1. JimmyPage

      Re: FOSS to the rescue?

      you need to check out the Google voice app ... comes with a massive langauge library ...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: FOSS to the rescue?

      > The only 'tricky' bit I can think of is the speech library

      That's what eSpeak* and Festival are for.

      If your app can output text to std out it will talk to these; it's pretty trivial to write a 'push buttan, say noise' app. The difficult bit is assembling the dictionary behind it and making it look good.

      * I especially like eSpeak because you can make your software speak English like a butch German woman.

      1. frank ly

        Re: FOSS to the rescue?

        " can make your software speak English like a butch German woman."

        Whatever appeals to you AC :) For the child-user market, I'd think that the parents (and the children) would prefer a synthesised voice that sounded like a child. It may be possible to do this with clever signal processing or existing library modification. Otherwise you'll need some volunteer children to get speech samples from, to produce a 'better' sounding output from the speech library.

        1. rhdunn

          Re: FOSS to the rescue?

          You can tell eSpeak to use any supported MBROLA voice, which sound nicer than the eSpeak voice. You can also alter the pitch and some other attributes, so you could adjust it to sound child-like if you so wished.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @frank ly - Re: FOSS to the rescue?

      "Obvious to anyone" can be used as a patent defense as Google vs Oracle proved to the world but you need top lawyers and a significant warchest. And as Groklaw is showing in detail, the outcome of patent litigation is not always clear that is way a lot of companies prefer to pay the trolls go away instead of facing dire financial consequences.

      As for FOSS, they are also vulnerable to (silly) software patents.

  8. g e

    I suppose you could...

    Send some kind of FOI request to the company for all the info they have on you giving only a postal address for response.

    100k of stamps has to cost quite a bit.

  9. Forget It

    Bring back RLS passport or not - this exactly the kind of scenario that he forecast...

    1. vagabondo


      Robert Louis Stevenson?

  10. B4PJS

    Wierdly interested in the weather

    She must have British genes...

  11. Roger Stenning

    big surorise...

    ... Apple sides with the firm that gives them a bigger payout on commission. It may still be a whopping THIRTY bloody percent, but the bigger the cost, the bigger the 30%.

    And people winder why so many of us hate Apple.

    1. Darryl

      Re: big surorise...

      Actually, Prentke Romich doesn't just make an app. They sell a device that does basically what the iPad app does, and charge extortionate prices for it. For all that money, you get a touchscreen that does what Speak For Yourself does and nothing else. You can buy an iPad and Speak For Yourself for a fraction of the cost of the device and then you have all of the other functionality of the iPad too.

      Now that their product has been shown to be limited and overpriced, they have to resort to litigation.

    2. Bryan Maguire

      Re: big surorise...

      The company that sued do not have an app. they sell their own hardware. Apple make no money from them. The fail here is you.

    3. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: big surorise...

      The firm you are saying Apple are siding with does not provide Apple with any revenue at all, since they produce their own (ridiculously expensive) tablet that only runs their voice software.

      I feel for the parents here, but the way they have portrayed this is distasteful. Apple haven't taken anything away from anyone - anyone who has purchased the app still has the app, and if they had synched with itunes, would also have a backup copy of it.

      What Apple have done is to pull this app from the app store, so that no new purchasers can buy it. I don't agree with this, they should have waited for a judgement, but the parents (and the reporters) play it as this:

      She cannot ask us questions. She cannot tell us that she's tired, or that she wants yogurt for lunch. She cannot tell her daddy that she loves him.

      (direct quote from family blog)

      Actually she can, as she already has the potentially infringing app and no-one is taking it away from her. The parents real concerns are:

      a) They won't get any more updates from the app developer

      b) iOS upgrades may make the app not work correctly

      Note that neither of these things are guaranteed even if the app was still in the app store. There is no contract that says the app will get updates and fixes, or even compatibility fixes for the next iOS.

      If the case is resolved in favour of the app developer, the app would be reinstated in itunes and all these things go away. If it goes the way of the patent holder, the app she has would be proscribed from the app store by the court order.

      Either way, she has the app now, will continue to have the app until the end of the court trial at least, and the courts will determine whether the app is available or not after that.

      If you want someone to get angry at, try Prentke Romich. They sell a nasty $10k tablet that kids with speech disorders require, bilking your tax dollars (EU) or insurance rates (US). They are the bastards in this story.

      1. keithpeter Silver badge

        Re: big surorise...

        "If you want someone to get angry at, try Prentke Romich. They sell a nasty $10k tablet that kids with speech disorders require, bilking your tax dollars (EU) or insurance rates (US). They are the bastards in this story."

        Yup, a cheap programmable device with touch control is going to disrupt a lot of markets, not just special needs/assistive technology.

        Electronic musicians used to pay heaps for one use touch screen tablet controllers and software; now they can just use an iPad. The problem is the patent system providing protection for obsolete technology like this. Roll on rootable tablets with Android/Linux and open programming.

        However, this kid is 4. Social and cognitive development time, she has 3 to 4 years of massive synapse connecting and schema forming ahead. These people can't really wait for some long drawn out legal battle....

        Worth mentioning that Hawkins has stuck to his legacy tech speech synthesiser because he knows it well and it has become part of his identity. Would that be possible in the future?

        1. Anonymous Cowerd

          Re: "Hawkins"

          It's Hawking, you ignoramus.

  12. Rich_Herds_Cats

    Sometimes, patents disputes make me cry.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Only sometimes ?

      What are those cases you rejoice hearing about ?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, today's villain is Apple

    Another day, another villain.

    The tragedy of the computer business is that there are no goodies.

  14. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    All I can say is how pathetic it all is to watch this bunch of supposedly sensible, well educated adults fighting like children while real children have ten times the sense of these morons, and all because of little green bits of paper. Cue Douglas Adams quote.

  15. burnard
    Thumb Down

    Ha Ha!

    Now you know why people in the know hate Apple. Welcome to enlightenment

  16. SeanEllis

    Sounds quite similar to this...

    Researchers were using picture boards with speech synths for animal communication studies as far back as the 1980s. I haven't looked at the detailed wording of the patents, but would this count as prior art?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    What's wrong Apple?

    Are disabled kids not cool enough to use your products?

    1. Captain Save-a-ho

      Re: What's wrong Apple?

      "Are disabled kids not rich enough to buy your products?"

      There, I fixed it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's wrong Apple?

      The outcome would've more than likely have been the same were the app available on Android, Windows as it is with iOS. It's a cheap shot. Argumentum ad populam is pretty low.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What's wrong Apple?

        I'm not so sure ANN. Apple don't give a fuck about the 'little people' because they don't need to. They have legions of fanboi apologists prepared to justify any low move they make, and any bad publicity that they do receive will only last until they release the next bit of shiny. It then immediately gets forgotten by the fawning press.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Removing the emotional aspect of helping kids in trouble, this story doesn't really detail what this issue is - it could be that this version is a blatant copy of the more expensive version and therefore has rightly been pulled by Apple...

    A lack of detail in the report, it's hard to work out exactly what's going on. Could it be that since Apple takes a slice of the payment, they're also culpable, so have removed it whilst the court case is ongoing?

  19. toadwarrior

    Obviously putting apple in the title gives something more attention but the real problem is the company suing. So what if apple didn't remove it. It would get removed soon afterwards anyway or the guy wins and as it is he can put it back on the app store.

    It's all well and good to mention android or foss alternatives but those aren't invincible to software patents. So yeah kids could switch but they may end up butt hurt again.

    The root of the problem is software patents in general.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The custom made device cost a couple of thousand if I remember. The app was much cheaper but was still a couple of hundred for what is little more than a customisable soundboard with tts capabilities.

    They could have/should have charged a lot less for what it was.

  21. mt1


    In the Apple world Court they have already assessed the patents and provided their ruling

    Yet again apple oversteps its mandate, unless they get a court order to remove it why are they taking sides?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Worrying

      If Apple didn't cave they would also end up being sued as a distributor. Now think what would happen if they had to defend themselves in court for every IP issue raised by the over 500.000 apps in the store? Obviously that's not an option.

    2. Matthew 25

      Re: Worrying

      Apple are just covering their ass. If the litigation is successful they don't want to be sued for distributing the App(tm).

      It's a real shame that there is no exclusion from patent for things which so dramatically enhance peoples' quality of life. You'll never get that because the Pharmaceutical companies (and others) can afford to out lobby you.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here's a quote from someone you should have reached Ms Leach, the suing company, not Apple..

    "PRC and the licensor of the Unity™ system that powers our language devices jointly filed the lawsuit after our patent attorney found numerous instances of infringement on Unity patents in the “Speak for Yourself” app. Apple has a process that allows third parties to provide notice of infringement concerns as part of its terms and conditions. Accordingly, we reached out to Apple on two occasions. We provided Apple with a copy of the lawsuit, expressing our concerns about the “Speak for Yourself” app. We then responded to a later request from Apple asking for an update on the lawsuit. Last week, Apple elected to remove the app."

  23. JimmyPage

    When this story first aired

    I commented that the proliferation of smartphones, tablets along with the powerful combination of the FOSS community will jepardise *any* product which can be boiled down to something whose functionality could be replicated by them. There are quite a few patented devices which are essentially ruggedized smartphones.

    In a way, I'm pleased this is a story, because it highlights how companies gouge people with disablities, because they think "the NHS will pay" (in the UK) or "the insurance company will pay" US. Check out the price of adaptations and aids, if you don't believe me.

  24. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    "We have pressed Apple for a comment, but have as yet received no reply."

    There is a typo. It should read

    "We have pressed Apple for a comment, but are yet to receive no reply."

    1. Matthew 25

      Re: "We have pressed Apple for a comment, but have as yet received no reply."

      No. This should be "We have pressed Apple for a comment, but it turned into cider" - well after a little fermentation.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "We have pressed Apple for a comment, but have as yet received no reply."

      We have pressed Apple but as yet have received no juice.

  25. WonkoTheSane

    Prior Art

    Whilst at my first ever job in 1983, working for the local Acorn dealership, I was involved in coding a system that did EXACTLY this using the BBC Micro and the BLISS symbol library for a local special school.

    1. Bach
      Thumb Up

      Re: Prior Art

      I was thinking of BLISS when I read this story. Some of my school friends back in the 80s used this symbol system.

  26. Tom 79


    Why all the hate on Apple and not the plaintiffs? Holy misdirected angler. Not only computers can get programmed.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The ghost of Steve Jobs

    Just learn how to speak. No big deal.

    Sent from my iPhone.

  28. Matt Piechota

    Press release

    The Press Release (in the comments above) notes:

    "The founders of the company marketing this app are speech-language pathologists who were trained by PRC, and who used their knowledge of the Unity system to develop a Unity-like app of their own and market it in the Apple iTunes store."

    That's a horse of another color. We can talk about how crap software patents are, but that's different than "we just happened to make something similar".

    1. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      Re: Press release

      ^^^ Exactly.

      People are knee-jerking against Apple as if Apple developed the damned thing. They didn't. They're just a retailer who don't want to get caught up in the backlash if it proves that PRC have valid patents. (And I suspect they do.)

      Yes, the original PRC product is expensive, but so was the app they're suing about: a virtual sound-board shouldn't be costing hundreds of dollars, yet that's what they were charging for it! At least PRC were selling a combined ruggedised hardware + software device that did the same job, so you can understand why it'd be priced high for what is, to be fair, a very niche market.

      If you work for, and are trained by, a company that has patented its research, then leave it to set up your own company in direct competition with them, you can bet your arse they're going to sue. Only an idiot wouldn't have seen this coming.

      Also, do read the relevant patents carefully: it's not the basic "touch an image on a screen and hear a sound" part they're talking about. It's the user interface that PRC spent years researching and refining that's under contention here. The specific grouping of words mentioned in the article is a key element of the infringement charges.

      Somebody has to pay for research, as even researchers need to eat and pay the rent. You can either pay for research indirectly through taxes—i.e. everyone pays a small slice—or directly when purchasing the resulting products / services. Even universities now maintain their own pools of patents and other IP for licensing.

      1. keithpeter Silver badge

        Re: Press release

        "It's the user interface that PRC spent years researching and refining that's under contention here. The specific grouping of words mentioned in the article is a key element of the infringement charges."

        Is a 'grouping of words' patentable in Europe or anywhere outside US? I could understand copyright, but a patent for a user interface?

        Are European researchers starving, hanging about on street corners? They don't get patent protection.

        Will disabled children have to use obsolete technology for 15 years (in US) as a consequence?

        Is the app in question still available in app stores in territories where US patents are not enforcable?

        I'm not fIsking Sean T. B. here, just interested to know the answers!

        1. Steve Todd

          Re: Press release

          There are many other apps in the Apple app store that do a similar job. NONE of them are being sued by PRC because they don't use their patented UI.

          This isn't a case of disabled children being deprived of software that could help them, it's about one manufacturer being sued by another for copying a specific design. Having decided that they're probably not going to win in court the offending company seems to be trying to win in the court of public opinion instead.

  29. Jeebus

    Apple hate people who work for them at every level, from slave in China to "clever" bod behind the counter. With utter disdain for resellers.

    Why is this a surprise, these disabled kids can't service Apple, it doesn't benefit them to help children with problems, all they care about is shoehorning retina displays into everything, sweeping slave labour under the rug and shafting everyone who owns a product of theirs.

    1. Sean Timarco Baggaley


      How old are you? Six?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Jeebus:

        Jeebus isn't a person, it's a trolling app.

    2. Dana W

      The highest level of customer satisfaction in the business is now "shafting"? Your are not the sharpest knife in the drawer.......

      1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

        @ Dana

        You seem to work under the assumption that consumer satisfaction has anything to do with product quality or consumer service. This is extremely wrong. People like to complain endlessly about very good products, and they also like to praise crappy stuff that they bought at a premium. That is the "sheeple" effect. If you pay a lot for something that doesn work properly, and you admit it, then you admit that you've been had, and that you are not,, to use your words, "the sharpest knife in the drawer" On the other hand, complaining about a very good piece of kit makes you look good and knowledgeable, and disctinctive and flairy. That is crowd psychology 101.

        It even works when you know how it works, which is remarkable. For example, I know how it works, and it still works on me. I don't have much Apple kit, and what I have is genuinely good, (yes Jeebus, they do manage to get good products on the market, too, even though it's not always the case) but I did buy a Fujifilm Finepix X100. While it is overall a good camera, it is (or was) very pricey and it has a lot of annoying quirks and shortcomings that should really be absent from a camera in that price range. It basically has very little over the likes of Panasonic's LX range or Canon's S range*, but is significantly bulkier and has limitations that the others don't have. It is also twice as expensive. But it looks cooler. I know all that, but I sometimes still catch myself talking about these quirks as "personality" of the camera instead of plain shortcomings as I know they are ( I do own a Panasonic LX3 and I bought my sister a Canon S90, so I do have side-by-side comparisons showing clearly said shortcomings. Some might be corrected in future firmware updates, but the softness of the lens for example is really not excusable).

        *The viewfinder is good, but that's about it.

        1. Dana W

          Re: @ Dana

          In other words, if people like it and enjoy it, they are simply too stupid to know whats good for them.

  30. Eradicate all BB entrants

    Just an observation ....

    ..... having worked in music retail during a case between Kelloggs & Ozric Tentacles (My memory is hazy as that was a time of all night parties that finished in time for work :D)

    An Ozrics box set was created with copied the Kelloggs cereal box designs. During the entire court case we were under no obligation to remove the offending box set from sale until the case had concluded and a withdrawal order sent.

    Apple, by removing the app from sale, may have actually prejudiced the case against the developers.

    As for the distibution excuses being plastered over these comments, absolute crap. Apple are in patent litigation against Samsung but Galaxys are still being distributed and sold.

  31. Mike Flex

    Oi, Hawking...'re next.

  32. heyrick Silver badge

    In my humble opinion...

    I think Apple is stuck between a rock and a hard place. If I was the CEO I'd have left it until a judgement was made, but in a litigation-happy culture such luxuries may not be viable.

    As for the horrible nasty bad bad bad infringing software... Yeah? So it does the same sort of thing as a more expensive package. And? Are you seriously brandishing the patent stick? How the hell is this not anti-competitive? There is a thing called market choice, you know. Sometimes the better product wins, sometimes the cheaper product wins, and sometimes the cheaper product is the better. That's just how the cookie crumbles. Unless, of course, you're American...

  33. DJ Particle

    If I read the family's blog correctly, it seems they tried to get their daughter interested in PRC's device first. She didn't like it and made it clear she wouldn't use it. The iPad solution literally is the ONLY option for her.

    If PRC's patent is ruled valid, then what they SHOULD do is re-market the app under their corporate label. Otherwise, PRC could be setting themselves up for an ADA lawsuit later.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People before greed

    Just sayin'

  35. Christian Berger

    You need to see this from the other perspective

    All those people who used the app apparently were criminals. They were using it to defraud the original manufacturer. Apple only helped them on their right way by disabling the app for them.

    If you disagree, why the hell have you bought a device with that feature? If people would only stop and think before buying a computer, the world would be a happier place.

  36. Stephen 10

    The real villain is of course

    The US legal system for allowing software patents.

    There's a reason nobody else does, which is it's a broken idea.

    BTW El Reg on reading "We pressed Apple for a comment, but have yet to receive a reply.", when was the last time Apple responded to you?

    (And it doesn't appear to be just you, this seems to be boilerplate for any media organisation that asks a question Apple doesn't care to answer)

  37. DrXym Silver badge

    Hard to see what is patentable

    Humans, chimpanzees and gorillas have been using pictogram to speech based computer based communication systems for decades. What's the novel application here?

  38. terlan

    seriously $300 for an iphone app.

    Yep, I agree apple shouldnt pull an app til its proven in court its infringing patents.

    Yep the US software patent system is so messed up its laughable.

    But This is not a piece of software from a non profit organisation, they are as guilty of fleecing the target market as the makers of the overpriced $3000 dedicated devices are being accused of.

    The app apple removed .. it cost $300. It was the 14th most expensive iphone apps in world. (data from march 2012). Hardly the altruistic software that the article makes it out to be.

    This is from a company that says on its own website "Heidi and Renee say they'd like to "change the world, and we can do that for people who can't talk by giving them a voice. It is a basic human right to have the ability and means to 'Speak for Yourself.'"

    It may be a basic human right to be able to speak for yourself, but obviously only if you have the $300 to do so.

    It sux that an app that can make such a difference to peoples lifes has been removed from the app store, but at the same time, its a shame that they'd have to pay $300 to get it if it wasnt

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: seriously $300 for an iphone app.

      Not a clue have you.

      There fewer likely customers you have the more you have to charge to cover your costs and make a profit and this is pretty much a niche market

  39. JimmyPage

    Worth restating ...

    the underlying problem here, is a legal system which substitutes patents for copyright.

  40. Mike Smith


    That is all.

  41. Crisp

    PRC Have a better patent than that.

    They have a patent for an "Image display device", if they enforced that patent, then they'd make billions!

  42. Benjamin 4

    Or release for Android...

    Or just release it for Android. Cheaper to buy tablets, Google is unlikely to pull it from their store, and even if they do you just go in to settings, allow apps from untrusted sorces, download the *.apk and bobs your uncle!

  43. TideFan

    Petition at

    A petition is now up at It is titled Let Maya Speak for Herslef.

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