back to article Apple will only reinstate mute kids' app if makers win patent case

Apple will not choke off sales of an iPad application that helps disabled children talk from its App Store if the speech therapists behind the app win the patents case that has been brought against them, The Register understands. Parents of speech-impaired kids using the iPad app 'Speak For Yourself' were distressed when Apple …

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  1. Jeebus

    Seems Apple have a hidden agenda.

    Between kicking disabled kids in the face and banning Iranians Apple are having no problems on the discrimination front.

    Sad that such a large company is so utterly petty, the worst thing is, is that they cannot blame employees as they're doping what they are told too by their superiors high up in Apple.

    1. Jeebus

      Re: Seems Apple have a hidden agenda.

      Hehe, doping. Intentional accusation of drug use at Apple stores.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Seems Apple have a hidden agenda.

        Doping: I read that as being about semiconductors.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Seems Apple have a hidden agenda.

      Let us know how your experiment in Black and White Vs Reality goes.

      >'such a large company'

      And you see anything but perfect communication between departments as being conspiracy, not cock-up?

      We all cock up. But the bigger mistake is to assume nobody cocks up.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Seems Apple have a hidden agenda.

      So if something is found to be potentially illegal in a shop and the owners of the shop take it off the shelves then that is wrong?

      This is nothing to do with disabilities or lack of sympathy, this is to do with patent infringement and lawsuits. The fact it happens to be for an app that helps the disabled attracts media attention.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        WTF?

        Re: Seems Apple have a hidden agenda.

        So if I go into your shop and point to everything and say "that's infringing my patent", you'll take my word for it and close the shop?

        No, I didn't think so.

        If you're quite happy for a developer to go bust because some bully buy competitors throw mud (which may or may not stick) at them well bully for you.

        This is the biggest problem with patents in the computer industry at the moment. Just a sniff of a court case can be enough to put you out of business regardless of the rights and wrongs of the matter.

        1. Figgus

          Re: Seems Apple have a hidden agenda.

          If you're quite happy for a developer to go bust because some bully buy competitors throw mud (which may or may not stick) at them well bully for you.

          Said developer opened the door to this sort of thing when they chose such a closed platform. I find a distinct lack of sympathy for them.

      2. Tom 35

        potentially illegal

        Something like an iPhone? Lost track of the number lawsuits going on.

        Good thing for Apple everyone don't use the same standards as they do.

  2. Citizen Kaned

    how is this under copyright?

    a dynamic keyboard of symbols

    ability to redefine them

    really? you can copyright such basic ideas?

    the USA needs a kick up its arse. this is an app to help children.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Meh

      Re: how is this under copyright?

      But only rich children, since the app, simple as you say, was being sold for a mind boggling $299.99!

      I feel sorry for the children but feel no pity for the company.

      1. Giles Jones Gold badge

        Re: how is this under copyright?

        Which is still cheaper than the hardware they are alleged to have "cloned".

        Have a look into disability and mobility aids, the prices some people charge is downright scandalous.

        When I was looking for a rollator (rolling support frame) for my mother who has dementia I went to a shop in the local shopping centre and they wanted £1300 for one. I got more or less the same item (tax free due to her illness) on ebay for £50.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: how is this under copyright?

          Indeed. In the case of mobility aids such as electric wheelchairs, they work on the assumption that user can't fix it themselves using generic parts, or use the man down the road who used to fix televisions in his shed.

          One would expect niche hardware to cost more per user than mass market stuff, but many times more?... The Prentke stuff looks like generic rugged touchscreen devices that have been used in industrial, automotive diagnostic and stock-control settings for years. The professional user doesn't mind the cost as much, because it helps them do their job quicker/better than the previous solution- an investment.

    2. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: how is this under copyright?

      Anthropology studies have been using a similar arrangement for decades for testing chimp / gorilla languages.

      e.g

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRM7vTrIIis

      I really don't see what is novel or patentable about a picture representing a word regardless of it being in a book, on a computer screen or a tablet.

      Perhaps the issue is deeper than that but knowing the absurdity of the US patent system I doubt it.

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: how is this under copyright?

      It begs the question - where the hell is the equivalent (competing?) product from the company that owns the patents? Oh, I see- they embed it in their own hardware and charge you between $3000 - $7000. Fairly generic, hardware too, though thought has been given to how different users might use it (carry it around or have it mounted in a wheelchair, for example).

      In fairness, this cost isn't just for a competing App, but buys you a whole suite of accessibility software and various input methods, including external joysticks etc to cover a wide range and combination of disabilities. Maybe overkill for a mute child with a narrower range of requirements- they don't need the extra adaptability features that cost R&D dollars to create.

      Hmm..

    4. Steve Todd Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: how is this under copyright?

      It's not. The way in which users pick from and assemble tiles into sentences is PATENTED, not copyrighted. THAT'S what the case is about.

  3. Jolyon Ralph
    WTF?

    > but as developers are unable to issue updates and fixes,

    > it could gradually become buggy and incompatible with the software.

    Ah yes, the inveitable bit rot that introduces new bugs into existing working software. If the app works now on an ipad, and the ipad isn't updated in any other way, it's going to continue to work, isn't it?

    Jolyon

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Not that users ever update iOS do they?

      Oh wait..

  4. Thomas 18
    Thumb Up

    Sounds like an opportunity

    For the developers to host a jail-breaking FAQ on their own site.

    1. Keep Refrigerated
      Big Brother

      Re: Sounds like an opportunity

      For the developers to port their apps to Android and abandon a platform does not guarantee permanent presence or income.

      Also abandon operations in a country that does not guarantee protection for software innovators either.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sounds like an opportunity

        What a load of bollocks. Google pulls apps from the Android Play store all the time too, over legal and other issues. (see recent pull of the "Reddit is fun" app). They simply have to comply or be put in the legal firing line together with the developer.

        Unless the developer was prepared to explain and support sideloaded apps, possibly involving rooting the device too, it wouldn't guarantee income either.

        1. jonathanb Silver badge

          Re: Sounds like an opportunity

          With Android, you don't have to distribute it on the Play store, you can sell it yourself, and email it, provide password protected access to a download site of whatever. Most Android devices support non-market installs and the company could provide a list of the slabs they support. People would buy that particular slab just to run the software on it.

          1. Rob Moir

            Re: Sounds like an opportunity

            So instead of the store you'd distribute it via a website and domain name?

            What a good job that people who think their patents are being disturbed wouldn't be able to go after a normal website or domain name registration too.

            Oh wait...

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Sounds like an opportunity

            Android only supports that if you enable app installs from "unknown sources". That's not an option on some devices or on some carriers and also not something most users would be comfortable in doing.

            It's also very difficult to know in advance if a certain device supports it or not. For the company to list the supported devices they'd have to buy them all!

            Might as well explain how to root iOS devices. That's essentially point and click these days.

            1. jonathanb Silver badge

              Re: Sounds like an opportunity

              We are talking about a table app that doesn't require a network connection to run, and if the kid needs it to talk to people, it probably isn't going to be used for anything else. The app costs $300, so it is a major investment, not an impulse purchase. If you support even just one model of android slab, that gives people exactly the same amount of choice that the had with the ipad app. A wifi slab would be perfectly fine, and the wifi is likely to be switched off most of the time to extend battery life.

              They could even buy a load of slabs and sell them with the app pre-installed.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Sounds like an opportunity

                That's a good idea, sell jailbroken iPads with the app.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sounds like an opportunity

          "Unless the developer was prepared to explain and support sideloaded apps, possibly involving rooting the device too, it wouldn't guarantee income either."

          Why are you attempting to apply Apple specific lockdown terminology to Android devices? And as for your later claims that unchecking a box in the settings is like jailbreaking an iPhone*, no it's not, it's nothing at all like that, there's no way you think it is either. Ok we get it, you have an iPhone, so ****ing what? No one cares.

          *I will allow that in very rare cases it has been reported that some network operators disable this, however this will never apply to purchasing a tablet outright as there are no operators involved, and these are clearly the target users for that app. Using this to claim Android is as locked down as the iPhone is disingenuous.

        3. Tom 35

          pull of the "Reddit is fun" app

          1 - No that was censorship not a legal reason. Maybe Apple will sue them for coping them in censoring stuff in their store.

          2 - You can still get it (unlike the Apple monopoly) https://github.com/talklittle/reddit-is-fun/downloads

    2. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: Sounds like an opportunity

      Porting to Android would at least relieve them of a gatekeeper arbitrarily delisting the app regardless of the legal merits of a lawsuit and being left with no other avenues of sale.

      Even if they ported to Android and Google took a similar course, it would not prevent them from hosting and selling the app from their own website if they so wished.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sounds like an opportunity

        Their ISP may take down their site. So should we get rid of ISPs?

  5. TRT Silver badge

    Well...

    If SFY win their case, then they can counter-sue the people that sued them for loss of revenue etc. and hopefully get a massive payout which they can use to make their app completely free.

  6. ukgnome
    FAIL

    Lets not pull any punches

    If apple cared they would ensure that the children have a voice. After-all they are the next generation of fanboi's. Such a shame that apple is run by a bunch of twunts!!!

    1. Jeebus

      Re: Lets not pull any punches

      But they're not hipsters who work in coffee shops [yet], "so who cares how disabled they are" - Apple management.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lets not pull any punches

        You two fandroids are truly sick in the head.

        1. Jeebus

          Re: Lets not pull any punches

          Wrong, idiot. I dislike Android, and WinMo and Symbian too.

          Pisses the fanboys off that I have no time for any of them, because their goto bullshit doesn't work and they're been called out on what they are.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Lets not pull any punches

            You're funny Jeebus, you say that yet never post on Android threads.

            As the spanish say: easier to catch a liar, than a lame dog.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lets not pull any punches

      Honestly, if Apple are doing things against the law then people come down on them like a ton of bricks. If Apple don't do things against the law people also moan at them.

      Which should it be? a very selective approach?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lets not pull any punches

        We would be happy if the law came down on Apple like a ton of bricks when they break it, however most things regarding Apple seem to get glossed over whereas another company would be hauled over the coals. Instead it does seem to be down to us people to shout and point out the wrongs that Apple seem to be able to get away with.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Flame

          Re: Lets not pull any punches

          "however most things regarding Apple seem to get glossed over whereas another company would be hauled over the coals"

          Are you serious or just trolling?

          Let's take an example. Witnessned the number of articles, TV and radio shows, etc biting at Apple over human rights at Foxconn?

          Now read this which implicates AT&T, Sony, Philips, Motorola, and retail giant Walmart. It also explains why Foxconn job openings are so popular.

          Did this make front page news, inspire human rights groups, theatre plays or "social change" organisations? Hell no. The fact that ONLY Apple gets hauled over coals for this is a pretty damning show of how society, politics and the media works.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Lets not pull any punches

            Like I said, people shouting which in turn leads to the media picking it up. Last time I checked the media were not the law.

            Where has the law been with Apples anti-competitive practices? Illegal employment rules (cannot join a union, cannot say anything at all about any apple product even when not working without it being sanctioned ny the PR department)? Abuse of the patent system? Illegal house searches (oh the police stayed outside the door on that one), Illegal strong-arming of a supplier to stop them building a competing product for someone else? Blatant lying in advertising? Not complying with local laws (It is against European law to sell something that requires a battery without making the battery user replaceable and yet it's ok for anything Apple). All this and more has been documented about the shiny fruity company and how many prosecutions have there been?

            1. imanidiot Silver badge

              Re: Lets not pull any punches

              Unfortunately, from a legal standpoint, it can't make a difference if the app makes life easier for disabled children or supports men clubbing baby seals to death. If an app seems to be infringing on a patent is has to be pulled according to the rules of the Apple App Store. (Which the developer has to agree to before publishing software)

              I don't really agree with the "guilty until proven innocent" approach of pro-actively pulling the app, but it makes sense from a legal standpoint. (Sueing for the revenue made during the case if SFY loses is complicated and takes time and money)

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Lets not pull any punches

              Apple employees cannot join unions? Quick, better tell these guys: http://www.appleretailunion.com

              Oh noes, I'll be downvoted by "Union of bullshit ACs" now.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Nine Circles

                Do you actually know anything about the organisation you posted. Only formed in 2011. Have you seen the fight he has had to get that together. Have you seen how Apple how fought and have trained their managers on trying to keep people out of unions.

                http://news.cnet.com/8301-27076_3-20070919-248/meet-the-man-who-wants-an-apple-retail-union/

                http://news.cnet.com/8301-27076_3-57320237-248/apple-to-train-managers-on-union-awareness-exclusive/

                http://www.macnn.com/articles/12/01/02/details.of.incident.kept.quiet/

                Bloody fanbois, don't let anything get in the way of their blinkered view of Apple. Try reading and finding out about things before trying to sound like a smartarse otherwise you just make yourself look like an idiot

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Facepalm

                  Re: Nine Circles

                  Is the union up or not? You're the blinkered idiot if you're falling for all that media politicised drivel.

                  Let me also shed a little tear for the poor Apple retail workers who were complaining.. FFS it's a decent paid retail job, nice fixed hours in a air-conditioned environment, selling stuff that for most part sells itself.

                  Some people really complain about everything, and by some people I mean the small group of idiots who started that. Fortunately most Apple retail workers actually like their job.

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Lets not pull any punches

      @ ukgnome Thank you for your considered contribution to the topic in hand, and your careful handling of the issues it raises.

      1. ukgnome
        Meh

        Re: Lets not pull any punches

        @Dave126 - All I am saying is a company such as apple should have a mechanism in place to help. They saw no issue with the app when it was submitted to there app store. Now they have creamed off some profit they decide to pull the plug due to something that may or may not infringe some copyright.

        In the UK you are innocent until proven guilty, but in the mythical world of apple you are devil spawn unless the copyright lawyers say otherwise ( paraphrasing, of course)

        1. stuff and nonesense
          Facepalm

          Re: Lets not pull any punches

          @ ukgnome: There are charges that can be laid for being associated with a crime, "accessory to", "aiding and abetting", "accessory after".

          By withdrawing the software from the store they are demonstrating that they are not aiding and abetting a potential "crime". Apple are acting in a way that is protecting their business.

          Crime is in quotes because it is another software patent. The Interface mentioned in previous articles can be written a myriad number of ways. The software shouldn't be under any threat.

  7. Only me!
    Thumb Down

    Stop iPad sales then Apple!

    So if Apple remove apps because of copyright , IP type issues......surely it follows that if the iPad is up on the same charges that they should withdraw that from sale.

    No thought not.....the world does not work like that when it is Apple.

    1. Anonymous Dutch Coward
      Pint

      Re: Stop iPad sales then Apple!

      Woof! Have a +1 ;)

  8. william 10

    So if Apples policy is "to remove products that are under patent litigation" why hasn't other patent litigation encumbered products like the Iphone & IPAD been removed also ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Facepalm

      Just like the app store, that's obviously a decision left up to the shops selling said iPads and iPhones.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Have you ever heard of Apple stores?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Apple Stores of course take on the legal risks of selling those devices, but any store is free to choose not to sell devices, if they fear they may raise legal issues.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        All parts of the same many-headed beast - the iDra if you will.

  9. Hieronymus Howerd

    Wait a sec

    Does that child have a TATTOO?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wait a sec

      Maybe - or perhaps it's:

      chocolate

      birthmark

      the last ever butterfly (thanks a lot, pesticides)

      gob - and - peel kiddy transfer

      felt tip

      leaky nappy

      etc

      Is she also holding a chocolate cigarette? Huh, the parents of today!

  10. Dan 55 Silver badge
    WTF?

    "no official comment on the case, but we were given an off-the-record briefing."

    Apple's PR machine must be getting desperate if they temporarily take El Reg off their shitlist.

    1. Midnight

      Re: "no official comment on the case, but we were given an off-the-record briefing."

      I'm guessing, based on the history between the two, that the briefing was three words long and accompanied by a hand gesture of some sort.

  11. CleatsAndCode

    Here's Hoping!

    I hope this app makes it back. Regardless of politics and patents, if it is really doing something remarkable, I want to see it back!

  12. pumkin

    With the amount of money Apple have in the bank they could buy the patent and let them use it.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Open Letter

    Dear Apple.

    We all know that you won't publicly comment on things like this. We all know that you will work in silence behind the scenes, popping up when new products are ready. You are famous for being secretive. Please, if you haven't already, have your lawyers take a very close look at the case and if you think that you can help Speak for yourself win, so they can get the app reinstated. Please have your lawyers help in the case, without charging Speak for yourself.

    This kind of application is exactly the kind of thing that your advertising can exploit, to show the world how much difference an Apple branded device can make. This is a highly emotive subject, which I'm sure will bring tears of gratitude if you are able to help in a positive way.

    I know that there will be no announcement, just please consider the effect that this app seems to be having.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      Re: Open Letter

      The "Speak For Yourself" case is nowhere near as simple as you think it is:

      1. The "Speak For Yourself" software clearly uses very similar techniques to those offered by Prentke Romich.

      2. The "Speak For Yourself" software was developed by EX-EMPLOYEES of Prentke Romich.

      That second point is very, very important and appears to be getting ignored by far too many people. It's one thing to claim you created something independently. It's quite another to let an employer spend its R&D money developing a tailored user interface, then resign and set up n direct competition with your ex-employer using what appears to be the exact same damned user interface in your own (rather expensive) product.

      Whatever the truth is, it's not for Apple to decide one way or another who is "right" or "wrong" here. Part of any developer contract you'd sign with the likes of Apple includes an explicit "Is this ALL your own work?" clause. If you knowingly signed such a contract—and you don't even get to release an iPad app on the App Store if you didn't—you don't then get to blame anyone other than yourself if your application was withdrawn because it turned out you lied, and you were caught doing so.

      1. Anonymous Dutch Coward
        Trollface

        Re: Open Letter

        The question is: can user interfaces be patented ;)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Open Letter

        The creators of Speak for Yourself never worked for PRC.

  14. Steve Todd Silver badge
    Stop

    This is actually quite measured for an Apple article by Ms Leach

    The problem is that "Speak for Yourself" was designed by people who had been trained by Prentke on their system to mimic the way the Prentke system worked. Bad start. They were warned that it infringed the patent and offered licensing terms. Having refused they then found themselves involved in a court case (big surprise).

    The possible outcomes are :-

    1) they agree licensing terms and the case is dropped

    2) the court finds that they don't infringe the patent or that it is invalid

    3) the court finds the patent to be valid and infringed. They pay damages and a license fee

    4) ditto, but instead the app is modified to prevent it infringing and no fee is payable.

    5) ditto, but SfY goes broke.

    In only 1 of these cases are the current users in any trouble.

  15. Colin Millar
    WTF?

    "protect the users"

    What?

    In what jurisdiction are users likely to end up being prosecuted?

    I have some sympathy for a distributor's position when there is some question over the legitimacy of the product's status but it tends to dry up when they come out with such self-serving BS

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just plain arrogant

    We ALWAYS pull apps from Store during legal battles

    Which is why I don't own any apple products.

    They should obviously only remove apps when they have lost the case not beforehand.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Gimp

      AC posting inflammatory rubbish...

      With over 450,000 apps in the store are you seriously thinking Apple could provide free legal defence for all of them?

      Apple, Google, Amazon and just about any retailer will pull apps, books or whatever if legally threatened.

      It's up to the app developers to prove they didn't break any patents.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: AC posting inflammatory rubbish...

        rival product coming out? Weight up potential sales lost vs damages. Then file lawsuit and get apple to take the rival off the market.

        Genius!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: AC posting inflammatory rubbish...

          Not a great plan Danny, if you then lose lawsuit you might get countersued for damages.

          I'd get serious legal advice.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just plain arrogant

      Self replying to my own post

      Oi thumbs down tard, you obviously hate the innocent till proven guilty that this country was founded upon? traitor.

  17. furt1v3ly
    Boffin

    Little girl signing

    I was disappointed to learn the little girl signing in the lede photo wasn't signing something rude. Or at least signing "Apple". ;-) "I love you" is a bit cute for El Reg.

  18. Grendel

    Apple's double standards?

    So, the rules for an App in Apple's store is that if it allegedly infringes someone's patent then the app gets taken off sale... so when Apple's own products allegedly infringe on Samsung/Motorola/Google patents why is it they they won't take their own products off sale?

    This is clearly a case of double standards by Apple. Perhaps the FTC should look at this and consider holding Apple to their own high standards?

  19. Sirius Lee

    Guilty until proven innocent?

    Sounds like Habeus Corpus is out of the window. Maybe the ITC should have taken a similar line during it's various patent disputes.

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