back to article Apple iPhone app patent claim 'doesn't feel right'

Apple has apparently lifted the look-and-feel of an iPhone app from German developer FutureTap and used it in a software patent application, putting that developer in a sticky situation. "I can't really judge whether the inclusion of a 1:1 copy of our start screen in someone else's patent is legal," wrote FutureTap founder …


This topic is closed for new posts.


  1. Mark Mitchell


    I'm afraid I just don't see it.....

    1. Tigra 07 Silver badge


      It's apple doing what they do best/most

      Steal someone elses trademark and strike a deal later

  2. Otto von Humpenstumpf
    Jobs Horns

    If nothing else...

    ...he's got Apple by the short and curlies for copyright infringement, I would have thought.

    1. JonHendry

      Probably not

      The iPhone developer agreement probably lets Apple use screenshots of 3rd party apps or derivatives of them. Otherwise they couldn't use them in marketing materials, commercials, etc.

    2. Olof P
      Jobs Horns

      Quite possibly not

      Quoting from the App Store developer agreement posted by the EFF earlier this year [1]: "Apple will be free to use and disclose any Licensee Disclosures on an unrestricted basis without notifying or compensating You. You release Apple from all liability and obligations that may arise from the receipt, review, use, or disclosure of any portion of any Licensee Disclosures."

      That actually does sound like one deals away any and all chances to stop Apple doing whatever they want with stuff you submit to the App Store, including screenshots.


  3. Anonymous Coward

    Prior art

    Makes the prior art argument pretty literal in this case.

    On the one hand, it looks like Apple are trying to patent something that someone else has clearly already done. If I were the original author of the work I would be worried that Apple were planning to come after me in court.

    OTOH, the patent clearly has no ground on the prior art grounds....

    1. Anonymous Coward


      "Makes the prior art argument pretty literal in this case."

      To you or I, but what about the USPO?

  4. skeptical i

    Yep, Apple stole it. Now that that's sorted, what does the needle icon do?

    Is this where I put my dealer on speed-dial?

    1. Ian K

      The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

      Hmmm, would have said "Hospital", but that's presumably the cross icon 2 along. Vet? Horse race nobbler? Stim-Pak vendor in the event of Zerg attack?

      Nope, probably is the one for drug dealers...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Horse race nobbler =


    2. Insane Reindeer


      Title says it all really.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    I call shark on this one...


    Albeit the kind of shark that enjoys swimming around in the toilet bowl that is the patent system.

  6. Mike Richards Silver badge

    What's the syringe icon for?

    Does it let you use cell phone tringulation, GPS and the iPhone's internal compass to find the nearest dealer?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    <titlestart> <titleend>

    All youR UI ARe BeLONG TO aPPLE

    Well actually that should probably read 'BeLONG TO AapSTore PolICE and oUr lAWyeRs'

    Get back in line little code monkey or Apple will spank you.

  8. Neil 7
    Jobs Horns

    The developer must have realised it by now...

    The patent application is surely a massive clue to the developer that his app is soon to be dumped out of the App Store when Apple launch their own version and the existing app is suddenly in breach of App Store rules on the grounds of "competing with an Apple product".

    He really should start working on an Android version. NOW.

    Better yet, re-develop it in Qt and have it ready for Symbian^3 and MeeGo. :)

    1. Dave 142


      "Better yet, re-develop it in Qt and have it ready for Symbian^3 and MeeGo. :)"

      That is a great joke there, thanks for that.

  9. bdam
    Big Brother

    And Steve Jobs called Googles "Do no evil" bullshit...

    Its not enough to take the p*ss out of their gullible fanbois, now they do it to their developers. The only consolation is how much browntrousering is going on in Cupertino since they lost the sales race to Android, because they know they'll never catch up again now.

    1. Lou Gosselin


      "Its not enough to take the p*ss out of their gullible fanbois, now they do it to their developers."

      I'm pretty sure they've been doing it to their developers since day one.

      The Reg: "Change your apps UI. Not that big of a deal."

      Love it!

  10. Smokey Joe

    Stand and deliver!

    "I just have to say, it doesn't feel right." is the gentlemanly way of saying "they're obviously robbing bastards, but can I face the court costs?".

  11. James 32

    Sticky litigation

    Is what Apple will tie this small developer up in. It doesn't matter who is right or who is wrong, this developer will not be able to afford to keep up with Apple's defence lawyers who will quickly turn the tables. Not unless they get some support from the likes of Google.

    On their own, FutureTap don't stand a chance against Apple - HOWEVER, there is a chance that Apply may be looking to purchase FutureTap - by owning this patent, they give themselves a chance of dictating what the price for FutureTap will be. Apple may be the bad guys here, but they are certainly not stupid, and copying someone else's design so accurately will have been done as part of a larger less sinister plan - such as purchasing FutureTap.

    If Apple don't now go on to purchase FutureTap the patent application will make no sense and they run the risk of Google jumping on this and using it to make an awful lot of anti Apple noise - i.e. if Google now bought Future tap it'd be a cheap way to buy in to what could turn out to be a major bit of bad ballsache for Apple.

    Apple know that as well - and surely, by now they know there best bet of securing their cornering of the mobile apps market is by getting a stranglehold over the most innovative developers before they release their wares on Android - and FutureTap are one such developer.

  12. Eponymous Howard


    Go to the Slashdot thread where you found the story, read the many, many posts from people with a clue.


    At least *try* to be journalists.

    1. blackworx

      Ooooooh Doris!

      Who shat in your handbag?

      "read the many, many posts from people with a clue."

      Sorry Doris, but doing that would require me also to read the many, many, many, MANY posts from petty-minded, irritating little know-it-all asshats like you.

      In short, FO back to /. if you love it so much.

      1. Eponymous Howard
        Thumb Down


        Ah, poor poor dahling! I must be hard discovering that you don't own the playground after all.

        Mummy will be along to collect you soon.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Eponymous Howard

          Wow, you really are a turd, aren't you?

    2. Tom Maddox Silver badge

      Aaaand . . .

      . . . this sort of douchebaggery is why I quit reading /. so many years ago. You know it's bad when Reg commentards set a higher standard for civility.

  13. Eddy Ito Silver badge

    Do this, don't do that. Can't you read the sign?

    I was afraid the closed nature of the app store was going to turn out this way. It is way too easy for Apple to mine apps looking for easy targets to steal IP. I call this developer lucky, how many others may have been refused by iTunes only to have their intellectual property stolen and now have no easy way to prove it.

    I use to wonder if Apple are still upset about the whole GUI dust bin dust up with MS so many years ago, now I know.

  14. DZ-Jay

    Re: *sigh*

    As Eponymous Howard suggested, if you read the patent itself (or at least comments from people who actually read it), you'll notice that the patent application's claims are completely orthogonal to the "Where To?" app.

    In other words, Apple is not trying to steal anybody's app, and the functionality described in the patent is vastly different than what the app offers.

    In one of the *many* illustrations that it offers as examples of various ways in which the interface can relate to the invention, it includes *one* that resembles the "Where To?" app--but it is just presented as an example among many others, and the patent does not claim ownership of this interface, but of the functionality it defines.

    The patent does not even attempt to describe a particular interface--that is, the interface itself is not part of the invention being claimed.

    Of course, this is not as exciting as attacking Apple for being evil, right?


    1. DavCrav Silver badge


      "it includes *one* that resembles the "Where To?" app"

      You mean is a direct copy?

    2. Lou Gosselin


      You're a good follower DZ-Jay, you never question your leaders.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      There you go again...

      being rational and sensible and basing your views on points of fact rather than knee jerk reactions, hearsay and hyperbole. You really need to get a caffeine addiction, so that you can rant and vent properly about hoe nasty Steve Jobs is. How very dare you, DZ-Jay, how very dare you...

    4. Anonymous Coward

      Interface without functionality, eh?

      "and the patent does not claim ownership of this interface, but of the functionality it defines."

      Just a word play, not relevant.

      Interface without functionality is just a pretty picture without any code behind it and in this case it had functionality, which Apple stole and patented.


    5. spodula

      describes the functionality

      If it describes the functionality of the app, the app is prior art. If it doesnt, it has no business being on the patent application.

    6. Adam Salisbury

      Patent Trolling

      So all they're doing is specifying woolly functions of an app that doesn't exist? Patent trolling then?

    7. Rob Moir


      on the one hand, you clearly have a point there. On the other hand, I would say that Apple really should have spoke to the creators of the app before using it's UI as an example.

      Not only is that simply the polite thing to do, it also heads off public relations own goals like the one they've just scored.

      What _is_ up with jobs lately. I can't help thinking that a few years ago he would have been wise to this and would have thought twice before telling people to just 'hold their phones differently' to get around a hardware bug. Apple are slipping.

    8. Magius

      Nothing like someone patenting what your app does...

      So the company doesn't need to worry about Apple stealing their looks, just the functionality of the whole app. I thought that was Microsoft's job? Apparently not.

  15. John Tserkezis

    Respect for Apple?

    I would have lost it by now.

    If I had any to start with...

    1. rciafardone

      SNAP! Nice one

      Good for you. Sadly I did like apple, as I did like MS, long time ago, before the dark times, before the Empire....

      Now somehow MS seems to me just some big company, not particularly good or bad while Apple is really starting to look all an out nasty.

      Evolution of my perception of Apple:

      At the beginning I thought “Wow that company really thinks different and doesn’t compromise”.

      When Jobs was out it was more like “Yea, those expensive and irrelevant machines”.

      When Jobs returned was like “Still expensive but got a lot of cool air”.

      Just a couple of years ago it was more like "Yea that company that specializes in trendy stuff for rich snubs or wannabes, but cant deny is cool stuff”.

      Now I think “Those greedy pompous bastards”.

  16. JonHendry
    Jobs Halo

    Tempest in a teapot

    Clearly Apple's patent applies to stuff that will be in a framework that 3rd part apps can use, like GameKit or UIKit.

    Where To is used as an example of that. The fact that the diagram uses the app's name is a pretty good clue that Apple isn't trying to steal the UI, but rather is depicting the third-party app in use. (Presumably a future version of Where To that takes advantage of the API that implements the tech being patented.)

    A GameKit-related patent might show a screen shot of Pong. That doesn't mean Apple is patenting Pong.

    The iPod for bicycles patent is another case: there's a drawing of a bicycle, which probably strongly resembles some particular model of a bicycle that exists. That doesn't mean Apple is trying to patent that bicycle design, or bicycles in general.

  17. Lance 3

    Contact Steve

    He should just send Steve an email.


    Change you app or pay royalties; it is not that big of a deal.


  18. geejayoh

    @ Eponymous Howard

    Well, do you think Slashdot was original journalism? Or a content aggregation service with an advanced comments system?

    What about the Associated Press? Where literally hundreds of stories are posted, bought and re-used by other journalists? That of course never happens!

    Only the register are guilty of being clueless hacks and plagiarism.

    Get a clue fool. Slashtards are just people like you and me. Clearly more geeky yes, but us all the same. And why have you taken issue with El Reg's stance? Let me guess, you're typing that from you iPhone 4 whilst masturbating to a picture of Steve Jobs filling out the bank slip for you Apple Street Team cheque.

    1. Eponymous Howard


      LOOK OUT!


      To late.


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "Let me guess, you're typing that from you iPhone 4 whilst masturbating to a picture of Steve Jobs filling out the bank slip for you Apple Street Team cheque." Who are your fantasy poster boys then, Larry, Sergey and Eric involved in some boardroom troilism? Or does Stevie B get you all sweaty when he's getting, erm, all sweaty 'throwing chairs'? In truth, both of you need to calm down, but your bit was utterly pathetic! Grow up now please.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Apple know that as well - and surely, by now they know there best bet of securing their cornering of the mobile apps market is by getting a stranglehold over the most innovative developers before they release their wares on Android - and FutureTap are one such developer."

    This is amongst the best the Apple market has to offer ? If this is innovation in the mobile market then I think I will go back to WAP for my info needs.

  20. NX1977

    ah, but

    Apple will be patenting it to help out a loyal developer so they don't get ripping off by nasty android or winmo devs, and not for apples reward - as Apple doesnt do things like steal ip to sell as its own.

    Isn't that Mr jobs nice, eh? *rolls eyes*

  21. JaitcH
    Jobs Horns

    Apple built it's early UI on plagiarised goods

    Apple simply co-opted Xerox ground breaking UI work and they have continued to do so, as well as plain stealing others names, such as the Fujitsu iPad. MS is little better.

    Those pathetic little screens Apple is seeking a patent for have already been employed, several years ago, in travel res terminals. The terminals were also touch, although a very early version.

    The concept was liking checking boxes only with the customers finger, rather than having a keyboard vulnerable to vandalism and permitting them to type their requirements. The screen labels changed discretely as selections were touched.

    Apples copies appear to be static, which a step to the rear. Like external antennae.

    1. bdam
      Big Brother

      Apples plagarising is in their DNA

      Before you go any further you need to clear up which Apple you refer to - is it the one which brought us the wonderful music from the Beatles in the 60's, or the one which, err, took their name a decade later and now because of that can't bring us the very same music?

    2. Giles Jones Gold badge


      Nice rewrite of history.

      The use of the iPad name was authorised.

      Xerox demonstrated their UI to Apple. Many of the people who worked on the Xerox GUI went to work at Apple.

      Apple were just first to market. Everyone else then ripped off Apple. Atari, Commodore, Acorn, Microsoft and so on.

      It's funny how the iPad, iPhone and iPod have spawned so many clones or killer alternatives (which never end up being as popular).

      I don't see many people cloning Kin phones or Zunes.

    3. Steve Todd

      Oh, for the love of Mike

      HOW MANY TIMES do people have to have this pointed out, Apple LICENSED parts of it's GUI technology from Xerox, they didn't steal it. Putting it together in a consumer oriented device was their idea as Xerox, quite frankly, hadn't got a clue as to what to do with the technology.

      Trying to find a meaningful name for a product being rolled out internationally is a minefield. Pretty much any name you can think of is being used by someone. Fujitsu were using the name for an EPOS system, and Apple bought the rights to the trade name from them fair and square. You think there's any source of confusion or existing brand recognition over an EPOS terminal?

      As for the patent in question, if Apple are patenting an API upon which apps like Where To? can be built then they are NOT patenting the application and the authors of Where To? would not have to pay them royalties to use the API.

      There is plenty of force behind the argument that software shouldn't be patentable, but while it is this isn't anything sinister or underhand on Apple's behalf.

    4. Anonymous Coward

      Not this bollocks again...

      When are you going to learn, eh? Xerox didn't invent the notion of a UI. PERIOD. They innovated on the UI with the WIMP paradigm. So if you want to accuse Apple of stealing anything, it was *that*. User interfaces as a concept *existed* before PARC did. As for Apple actually copying UI elements from this guy, I'll say the same thing to you as I said to him, actually *read* the patent yer fuckwit.

    5. Anonymous Coward

      here you are again

      Ah, I was beginning to think you werren't going to comment on yet another apple article.

      I am disappointed you didn't mention Lemon though?


This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019