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back to article Apple pilfers rips off student's rejected iPhone app

Apple is famous for going to absurd lengths to enforce its patents and trademarks. It recently sued Amazon for calling its app store Appstore. And it has publicly lectured competitors to “create their own original technology, not steal ours”. But the company isn't always as fastidious about respecting the ideas of others. …

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Hmmm, what to call it...

So, we are synchronising stuff using wifi, and we need a name and an icon. What to do? Well, clearly the act of synchronising is to ensure that 2 or more things have a consistent state, so that gives us some simple language everyone might understand. And how do we explain Wifi? Perhaps we could mention that it is is a transport mechanism that does not rely on the plugging on of a cable in order to make a connection for the ensuring that 2 or more things have a consistent state. So that's our product name! iOS5, featuring the capability-th-ensure-that-2-or-more-things-are-able-to-maintain-a-consistent-state-using-a-transport-mechanism-that-does-not-rely-on-the-use-of-a-cable-that-needs-plugging-in!

Or...we could just use wifi sync...either that or we can have a bunfight as to where it was used first, Android? Windows Phone 7? Zune? Palm? Generic term guys. And as has already ben said, generic icon, made up of previously used generic icons.

This guys had his 2nd five minutes of fame now, we can move on.

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The smart thing to have done

I think maybe the smart thing to have done at Apple would have been to offer him a job on the spot and brought him into the fold sharpish. Then, whatever the origins of iOS5's Wi-Fi Sync, they wouldn't have another shit-stain against them from Hughs being pissed, and they could boast that when they see talent, they try to get them into the fold to bring fresh blood, etc, etc to Apple.

It would save a lot of hassle, IMO.

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Thumb Up

you know what?

i am thoroughly enjoying this renewed "MAC vs PC" flamewars.

I'm finding a lot of fanbois attacking me verbally when i put down Apple again (which is just too funny to not do), it's just like old times. haven't been able to seperate the trolls from the genuine fanbois yet, but that's a matter of time.

trolling for Microsoft, MAN that's good fun!

been too long since i did this, forgot how much of a laugh it is.

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Happy

Superb!

Everyday there's another good punch-up amongst the fanbois, that's why I love The Reg! Always brightens up my lunchtime break.

Now when are we going to get a popcorn icon just for use on these sorts of stories?

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Stop

Move along, nothing to see here...

Story so far:

Apple behaves with questionable morality (yes,yes, it wasn't patented, trademarked, or copyrighted - who cares - morally it stinks).

World complains that Apple (bizzarely painted as some altruistic commune by many) behaves as a commercial enterprise trying to maximise their market share and make a buck out of an unprotected idea that they've seen.

Apple Fanbois complain that their champion could never do wrong, and there must be a misunderstanding.

Vitriol is swapped.

No minds are changed.

World continues spinning.

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Anonymous Coward

@Jeepboy

Erm... first paragraph is bollox. This guy was not the first person to think of syncing over wifi.

The rest is probably pretty much spot-on, except I don't know anyone - eve the 'fanbois' who think that Apple is perfect. The only people I see stating that are the rabid 'anti-fanbois' who use it as a stick to smack 'fanbois' with.

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Stop

isync icon plus wifi icon in iphone icon shape?

seems fairly obvious to me alas start the witch hunt!

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Somewhat disingenuous

In order to modify the iPhone's iTunes library he almost certainly had to use some non-public API calls. As far as I'm aware they only added public functions to access the iTunes library in OS 4 and even then it was only read access. 'iPod library access lets your application play a user’s songs, audio books, and audio podcasts. The API design makes basic playback very simple while also supporting advanced searching and playback control.'. Use of such functions was always going to result in Apple refusing to circulate his app, so there was no point acting all surprised about it. All apps that use non public API calls get rejected.

By the same token, if it came to court, Apple would argue that the reason that they had kept those APIs private was because they were reserved for future iOS level improvements. That essentially his app broke their copyright by utilizing their code without permission. In fact they could probably have sued him over his app on cydia.

If I'm wrong about this by all means somebody post a link to the public API that allows modification of the iTunes library on iOS.

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Boffin

This is where software patents are *useful*

They would have protected the little guy from having his idea poached by Apple - and in the US there's a 12-month grace period for filing, so in a nice twist he could have funded it from the sales to Jailbreakers.

Moral for the little guy - protect your innovative one-trick ponies.

/ It's a corporate world, play by the rules.

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Anonymous Coward

Except

Wireless sync has been in place for a long long time, maybe even before this student was born!

I know at least Palm did it.

So lots of prior art, maybe even a few patents that Apple had to license to actually get it off the ground.

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This guy should sue...

http://www.androidzoom.com/android_applications/tools/wifi-sync-screen_rizq.html

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******ing Apple

And people wonder why I refuse to develop for iOS. Bad enough that they reject apps without any real basis for doing so, but here they've clearly stolen (no other word fits) a valuable idea. He should sue.

This is pretty similar to when Ford ripped off the guy who invented intermittant windshield wipers so there'l probably a precadent.

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Pint

Erm... No

The guy who invented the intermittant wash wiper applied for and held a patent. The app developer had no such patent or any other form of legal protection. Yes Apple behaved badly, but not illegally - so there are no grounds to sue, as others have said.

And even if there were, it's not a path I'd be keen to follow. :)

Despite holding a clear patent, and the obvious theft of his invention (he'd demo'ed it to the car companies the year before they all released models with intermittant w-w) the case against Ford et al took more than a dozen years, cost a fortune, the guys marriage, and the stress may have contributed to his death. He spent $10M to take the case through court, and won $30M in settlement. I'm sure his heirs were delighted!

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WTF?

He should get over it...

Well WiFi Sync was done on other platforms beforehand, so the idea isn't new.

The icon is a WiFi symbol with a Sync symbol around it, and indeed it looks like a progression of the Apple Mac OS X iSync icon.

He's made a few hundred thousand on Cydia from his application which will set him up nicely for life.

His source code wasn't used, his binary wasn't used, and almost certainly the app was reviewed by a very different team in a different office to the developers that created Apple's WiFi Sync.

Does his automatically launch and sync when plugged in to recharge from a power outlet?

I'm sorry for him that his money-making application is now defunct because its functionality is now within the operating system itself, but that's what happens. It was a major demand from the users since launch, and even Zune users laughed that it wasn't available on the iPhone/iPod when it was on their device.

The only sad thing is that his app wasn't allowed on the official store originally.

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Meh.

I'm usually the first person to criticize Apple for their shortcomings, but this time they've done absolutely nothing wrong. Of course they had already planned sync over wifi from the get go. Of course it has to be part of the native OS, and of course they're not going to let a third-party application handle such a huge feature. They used none of his code, and its absolute rubbish to say that the idea is original and unique.

I do feel sorry for the guy, but he had a good run.

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Mushroom

It's....

....shit like this that pisses me the fuck off.

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No code was downloaded?

umm, if it's not copyright infringment to reverse engineer an app and distribute it as their own product, under that argument I can make my own Macs and iPods and sell them as my own product. I won't have violated the copyrights held by Apple becaus they didn't download any code to my systems.

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Anonymous Coward

@Dropper

Erm... idiot?

Of course it's not copyright infingement to reverse-engineer software.

What has reverse-engineering software got to do with selling macs and ipods and code downloading?

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WTF?

haha! Classic.

This one's almost worth framing.

Are you really suggesting that the engineers at Apple, you know the ones who wrote the operating system themselves, and iTunes, and it's APIs and such like, would have to reverse engineer some students hack in order to get wireless sync working? That somehow, the reason it has not been present until now was because they couldn't work out how to do it without the assistance of said students crappy app?

You Sir, are a genius. Are you sure you are not AManFromMars?

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Trollface

Irrational Fanboys...

Microsoft - They're on to us. Let's just take this feature out at least until it goes to court.

Apple - Read the fine print, noobs.

Google - We're just trying to serve the users and do what's best for them. That's not evil, right? I mean we have data to show that people clicked on the first link more than the second link when we made Google CloneApp (Beta) the first link on all search result pages. And we only moved it to the first link because people liked CloneApp (Beta) so much. Not to mention OriginalWebApp violated our guidelines, so we had to cancel their adsense account and move them to page 12.... Wait. What? Antitrust? ... OriginalWebApp is a puppet of Microsoft! If anyone tries to tell you anything about OriginalWebApp they are working for Microsoft's propaganda team to spread misinformation... Somebody notify the media and the blogs to let them inform everyone how OriginalWebApp is inferior to CloneApp (Beta) in all respects.

Unfortunately "innovative" tends to describe brand image more often than it does anything meaningful. However, if you look at how the top three "innovative" tech companies respond after getting caught from a neutral point of view, then maybe your opinion of each company will change. Bonus points if you can identify times where Google used misinformation, bloggers, and the media to make the other guys seem less "innovative" when threatened by an antitrust investigation.

</troll>

I won't tell you to get used companies ripping off the little guy or try to justify anticompetitive acts on behalf of a company that doesn't need the marketing help. It is actually possible to change things if you stop worshiping ultra powerful companies long enough to prevent them from locking you into dictatorship-like markets. No matter how open they claim to be or what they say regulation will do to the economy, they're actually hurting both the open source movement and the free market while neither side takes notice.

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Out come the freaks...

...who will defend their rotten company no matter what - witness the downvotes every time someone criticizing this scumbag called Apple.

Was (Not Was): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wguF9N0x9do

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Anonymous Coward

@Levente

Yep - namecalling is always the best way to win an argument. It's usually only used when you actually have no argument.

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So the kid no doubt lost a few million bucks in easy earnings.

And million of willing buyers were locked in a dark cupboard until uncle Steve says Yes.

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WTF?

Lazy journalism

I know I'm risking the death of a thousand downvotes with this one but, try as I might, I can't let it go without comment.

A lot of folk, here and elsewhere, are bandying around words like "stolen code" and "reverse engineered". Show me some evidence -- any evidence -- that Apple has "reverse engineered" Greg Hughes' code and I'll concede that we may have a proper story. In the meantime all we have is Mr. Hughes crying his tale of woe to any media outlet that'll listen.

But what makes this case so special? Computing history is littered with legacy third-party applications that became superfluous when their features were later implemented in the host OS. I don't recall the mainstream media dedicating so much as a column inch to any of those stories.

More recently Microsoft has made available, free of charge, several products that stamp quite heavily on the toes of the multi-billion dollar Windows anti-virus industry. Only the history of antitrust cases has kept these programs from being offered as part of Windows Update; once installed they are, for all intents and purposes, part of Windows. By doing this Microsoft have actually been celebrated in the technology media, for finally allowing users access to long-needed and long-wanted features without needing to pay third-parties.

Sound familiar? Microsoft does something and they're told they're finally getting things right. Apple does the same and they get accused of plagiarism.

No, there are only two reasons why this story is running. The first is because of the icon similarity which, as others have already pointed out, is meaningless. Any facility to synchronise over WiFi was almost inevitably going to be called WiFi Sync, and its icon was always going to be an amalgam of the WiFi logo and the sync symbol. It's not even news.

The second reason is that it's easy to spin this tale into the archetypal David versus Goliath story so beloved of the media, with big bad Apple on one side and the plucky British developer on the other. Easy and lazy.

As for Greg Hughes being "completely shocked" at Apple's latest revelation, perhaps the stress of his exams has dulled his memory? Only last year he was quoted as admitting that "he never really expected the wi-fi sync app to be approved because, in effect, he was messing with Apple's own technology." (the words of interviewer Rory Cellan-Jones). And that he "thought it was a bit of a grey area. It doesn't break specific rules, but it's something that Apple would prefer to do themselves." (the words of Greg Hughes).

http://bbc.in/bg2ldl

He can't have it both ways. Either he knew Apple would be working on this in-house and would eventually incorporate and release it, or he was completely shocked at the announcement. I know which one I'd vote for.

The simple truth is that Mr. Hughes' year-old cash-cow -- which if the message boards are to be believed didn't work properly for a great many users anyway -- is now deceased. And rather than accept it and move on he's decided to play the victim, ably assisted by lazy journalists keen to generate quick link-bait and stir up yet another Apple flame war on the comments pages. At last count there were 133 responses on here and 11 on The Telegraph. Forgive my cynicism, but that's a lot of clicks and eyeballs for very little effort.

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Anonymous Coward

Fanboi much?

nuff said.

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it could be argued...

that his icon is deliberately designed to not 'infringe' on Apple's icons set. Notice how the sync part is offset. He must have thought hard when he created his icon and decided to make one that could be accused of blatantly copying any of Apple's icon set.

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Meh

Realist very

Hardly. I don't have the disposable income to be a 'fan' of any company. I buy kit that works most efficiently and cost-effectively for the things I need to do. Some of that kit is Apple, most of it isn't.

Apple makes some nice items, but many of them are still too pricey for what they are. And even those Apple products I do like often have features or implementations that are less than ideal. I have mentioned a couple on these forums.

I will concede that if I hadn't already owned an iPod touch I may have waited for the tablet market to mature rather than becoming an early iPad adopter. But having most of my media already in iTunes and a bunch of compatible applications and accessories already paid for meant it made perfect sense for me to go for the "big iPod".

That may be enough to label me a fanboi in the eyes of some, but opining that Apple have done nothing wrong over this whole Wi-Fi Sync business certainly shouldn't. Anyone with an objective eye should be able to see that Apple have clearly not "ripped off" anything.

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WTF?

The "Unsolicited stuff belongs to us" claim is bogus

It should not stand in English law.

A statement of Terms and Conditions, a contract or any other legally binding agreement cannot take away the laws of the land. If something is yours, it's yours, unless you make a specific, explicit declaration to give the property to someone else. I believe (IANAL) a very strong case can be made that no such declaration was given, nor was consent implied.

Of course, as someone else pointed out, Apple have a lot of money.

I hope the guy gets a good lawyer and sues their (Apple's) collective asses off.

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Anonymous Coward

@Sam

Sues for what?

Wifi sync is not a new idea. It has been done before - years before.

So... he's going to sue under what law exactly?

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Stop

So Wait......

He never came up with the idea....it has been possible on a number of devices for a couple of year....

He never came up with the logo....its a composite...

The name WifiSync is just just a description of the function.....

He never submitted sourcecode and his binary was not copied.....so no copyright infringment....

I am not seeing the legal path.....i am not actually seeing that apple 'stole' anything.

At best......they used the idea to create their own code.....again...an idea that was not created by this young chap....it has been around a while....

His best bet is to ride the 'impressed' card...get his CV to them and get a good job once he graduates.

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Restriction of trade

I'd have thought he'd have a much better case for suing Apple under restriction of trade laws. It seems plausible that Apple rejected this App purely on the basis of not wanting to allow someone to make money so they could use the name and logo for themselves.

I think it's also worth pointing out a very important legal principle that applies in the UK. Contracts are not automatically binding. If a contract breaches existing legislation it is invalid, even if both parties agree to the contract. Apple may think they're legally covered by their agreement with the submitter of an app to allow them full use of the code, but this is only true AFTER the case has gone to court and the Judge has decided in Apple's favour. A Judge would, if existing laws are such, be within his remit to declare that Apple's contract was an abuse of their position and stood in the way of trading activities already protected by law. Until a Judge makes a decision, the contract is in a state of legal uncertainty in the UK. Ironically, had the student not sold his app another way and remained impoverished he may have qualified for legal aid. As it is, he'd have to spend his well-earned cash taking on Apple and he may simply run out of money before a final decision was made.

This case (and others like it) show that the British legal system really hasn't caught up with the digital age. It should be such that the successful submission of an app to the App store grants Apple the right to have exclusivity in its sale, but that the copyright to the source code is retained by the originator - this would bring it in line with other creative works such as music or literature.

One thing, though - if Apple have used his code in any way, they will not be able to patent it.

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Coat

Ever ....

had that syncing feeling.

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FAIL

nsfw - and a little out of date..

But apt all the same...

http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=iphone

Wheres the flaming fanboi icon?

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Anonymous Coward

Those Crazy Kids....

We're not talking about a revolutionary OS here, or a new file system that can simultaneously index the entire internet and make you lunch whilst it sings soothingly to your kids. We are talking about a guy who has taken several ideas that have existed for years and packaged them together in an app for a phone that he is now claiming is completely his idea...Apple may have "stolen" his app, but he stole their business model.

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Try using one of crapple icon

Crapple would sue the pants off anyone using just the icon from their os or app, let alone the idea or technology. iHypocrite

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Happy

translation for fanbois

APPLE PILFERS RIPS OFF STUDENT'S REJECTED IPHONE APP

translation:

PARASITE FREELOADING IPHONE APP OBSOLETED BY APPLE

or maybe

DO-THE-OBVIOUS-BEFORE-APPLE-DOES-IT BUSINESS MODEL NOT SUSTAINABLE

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WTF?

dishonest post

Its pretty obvious that both the developer and apple themselves merged the airport signal strength logo and the mobileme sync icon to create their "new" logos. and for the author of the article to state that apple got the idea to allow itunes to sync over wifi is idiotic. every single person who has an iphone and uses itunes came up with this idea ...

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Lets not feel too sorry for the lad...

... he worked hard, produced good results, and managed to rack up a turnover in the region of £1/2m ... not bad for a school kid. The fact that Apple tripped him up on the way to the gold medal shouldn't take away from his acheivements.

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WTF?

To Mr WiFi Sync author

The question is simple: Did you register the logo and/or the name of your app to IPO internationally?

- Yes? Then your "shock" is justified.

- No? Then you have no right at all on that name or logo, plain and simple.

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Coat

Ever .....

get that syncing feeling (groan icon)

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Mr. Apple?

Meet Mr. Newton.

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the end of the stick you have hold of, would be the wrong one

The guy posting the 'unsolicited stuff' post a while back was a) joking and b) talking about their unsolicited feedback form - not their app submissions policy.

If you send feedback to a firm by say putting a suggestion into their suggestion box, you can't subsequently sue them for implementing your suggestion - so I'd say that they're on fairly secure ground there.

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Pint

interesting points of view on display

When Microsoft do soemthing like this, say including a browser as part of the install, r adding a feature that basically kills another product they are abusing a domiant position. When Apple do it "it's there OS they can do what they want"

It seem sto me that Apple get away with a lot that other big software companies don't though Apple are now pretty much bigger than Microsoft maybe they'll have to put up with people looking closer.

On a side note, the guy got asked for his CV, getting a job at Apple straight out of Uni doesn't seem that bad to me! (assuming he gets a job...)

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Old tricks

Remember, in the 1980s Apple Computer tried to claim the GUI as their own product, while it was Xerox's PARC labs which actually developed it. Apple was buried in court. Hopefully, the same fate awaits them here.

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Anonymous Coward

@Rambo

You have a very strange memory of events.

Try doing some reading.

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Trollface

Pretty sure...

....that I've seen several stories about how Apple have either sued or attempted to sue others for breach of a "concept", and this sounds quite similar. I actually never agree with being able to patent a concept in the first place, only a physical design. After all, if I had the "concept" of a touchscreen many many years ago, would that mean I could sue anyone who designed one?

Unless Apple have actually stolen code, I don't think he has a leg to stand on. The icon, as someone else suggested, is just a mix of two already established industry icons so cannot really be claimed as his intellectual property.

I really wanted to bash Apple when I started writing this post, but I can't really see a reason upon reflection.

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Stop and Think

I'm sure Apple has intellectual property transgressions in its past and present, but I just don't see this as one of them.

First of all, this guy didn't come up with a completely new idea for a service. I've had an iPhone for nearly 2 years, now, and AT LEAST since then, iPhone owners have been complaining about the absence of this rather obvious feature.

Second, he did it as an app, rather than building it into the iOS. That's like you inventing a car engine chip that boosts horsepower and then complaining when, instead of buying the chip from you, Chevy redesigns its engine with a turbocharger to provide more horsepower.

Third, I'm pretty sure it is more tricky to integrate features into an OS than provide them as apps. Tinkering with the OS, you run the risk of messing up some other feature while adding the new feature. It is almost certain that Apple was already working on this feature long before they heard from this guy.

There is slightly more substance to the logo issue, but only on its face. They are similar. But still, the two arrows chasing each other have been the universally recognized symbol for syncing since at least Palm Pilot days. From Wiki, "The Wi-Fi Alliance is a trade association that promotes Wireless LAN technology and certifies products if they conform to certain standards of interoperability. Not every IEEE 802.11-compliant device is submitted for certification to the Wi-Fi Alliance, sometimes because of costs associated with the certification process. The lack of the Wi-Fi logo does not necessarily imply a device is incompatible with Wi-Fi devices." YOu have to go through the certification process in order to be able to legally use the Wi-Fi symbol.

I would bet a jillion bucks that Mr. Hughes did not submit his software for certification (if you can even get software certified). Therefore, he has no right to use the Wi-Fi symbol at all. If you don't have the right to use the underlying trademarked graphic, you do not have a legal right to combine it with something else and claim the new symbol as yours.

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Facepalm

D'oh

I'm usually the first to bash Apple, but really he added arrows to Apple's WIFI icon so what we they expected to do differently, since Android and Zune already do WIFI syncing it was hardly his original idea, it was coming to iOS sooner of later.

Sounds like he made a fat wad of cash out of it, and I'd say putting out press like this has made sure his CV goes in the bin over at Apple too.

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WTF?

Bloody obvious

Let's not get too emotional about the David vs Goliath story.

That iOS would at some point support Wifi and even cellular syncing is bloody obvious. In fact it is quite amazing that this was not supported in the first version of the software.

And the logo... Well that's pretty obvious too. Sync + Wifi symbol. It is really hard to come up with anything else that would make a good logo for this function.

And no, I'm not an Apple fanboi, but irrational reporting gets my goat.

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stating the obvious

Syncing over wifi. hmmmmm.... what would be an obvious name for that? Wifi Sync? YUP...

What about an icon?

Hey, I know, what about taking the old "sync" logo (which was used for syncing all kinds of devices to a Mac) and putting a wifi symbol in the centre? What? The "sync" logo was used many years earlier by Palm and others? Then it's a generic symbol for syncing. The wifi symbol is a generic symbol for wifi.

Ohhhh, some clever kid combined those obvious symbols and coloured it blue? Well tough titty.

This is an obvious and requested feature (an idea) and ANYONE can make it without any moral qualms. The icon is as generic as they get. Even so, Apple's version looks more like their own old sync icon than this kids icon.

Move along, nothing to see here.

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