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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  1. Mark 65 Silver badge


    But I would have thought a clear cut case of breach of copyright has taken place. Take them to court and force them to pay or get the service blocked in the EU. Wankers like this need to learn a lesson.

    1. mraak
      Big Brother


      Unfortunately the entire court system is invented only to protect the power. Apple would counter sue this guy for something for so long, the guy would bleed all the funds away, probably destroying his career as well.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down


        He needs to stand up for what he believes and for what is right rather than cynically prejudge the outcome and give in. He has little to lose and very much to gain; Apple's behaviour is characteristically appalling.

      2. Stephen Rodda


        This might be the case in the US. However, breach of copyright in the EU is a criminal offence. Just tip off plod and they do the rest.

        Isn't that nice?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Copyright of what?

      Did Apple pirate the Wifi Sync binary? No

      Did Apple copy the source code of Wifi Sync? Probably not, since the developer didn't send it to them

      So what imaginary copyright is this?

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Source code...

        Seeing as the article says that the iOS development team had looked at the source code and admired it, I would say that they did have a copy of the source code tro study!

      2. Stephen Rodda
        Paris Hilton

        The look of the logo for starters ;)

        Paris, because she'd agree...

      3. Martin Usher

        Imaginary Copyright?

        These days is fashionable to claim copyright -- and even patents -- on "look and feel" issues. So, for example, if I built a gesture based interface on some random piece of hardware then I'd better make sure it differs significantly from Apple's interface. Obviously my code won't be the same as theirs -- not even remotely the same (coincidences apart) -- but that's not going to be much of a defense.

        Try it.....

      4. Daniel B.

        Re: Copyright of what?

        "Did Apple copy the source code of Wifi Sync? Probably not, since the developer didn't send it to them"

        Isn't "send us teh codez" part of the approval process of Apple's App Store? The whole point of their approval process is that they "check" the code so that nothing ugly gets through ... or so Apple says.

        Of course, it is very possible that Apple just built their function from scratch, so it isn't a clear-cut case even if they did get the source code. :(

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I'm afraid you are mistaken. Copyright law wouldn't apply in this case since the developers don't submit source code to Apple, neither is Apple including his binary within their system.

    4. Ilgaz

      They must have covered that too

      When you send feedback to Apple as an ordinary user, it says:

      "Please read Apple’s Unsolicited Idea Submission Policy before you send us your feedback."

      And the document says

      "You agree that: (1) your submissions and their contents will automatically become the property of Apple, without any compensation to you"

      Oh BTW, as a "dead" Symbian owner which has no restrictions on apps as long as they aren't malicious or cause device malfunctions, here is my policy about such developers ignoring my device: I don't care and they deserve everything they get.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Ignoring your device?

        "Oh BTW, as a "dead" Symbian owner which has no restrictions on apps as long as they aren't malicious or cause device malfunctions, here is my policy about such developers ignoring my device: I don't care and they deserve everything they get."

        Sorry, am I hearing this right, you are accusing college students and other hobbyist developers of deliberately ignoring your device?

        I didn't realize I was supposed to buy an extra phone and spend months of my free time learning a different development system and porting my apps because Symbian is your favorite. My bad.

    5. Ammaross Danan
      Thumb Down


      ....from a company that sues others for using "icons" in a "tiled array" on a "handheld device"....

      1. Alexander Vollmer

        Handheld Device

        @Ammaross Danan: I remember the late Sixties then a handheld device with an tiled array of buttons with pictures and signs was invented by Texas Instruments, the famous pocket calculator.

        They should sue Apple for imitating this principle and every other company using such a handheld device with an tiled array of icons. Or may be it belongs to the descendants of Thomas de Colmar who invented the Arithmometer which can be held in the hand, has an tiled array of buttons with icons and signs on them. Its had also a wireless sync mechanism implemented, it uses the human and his voice to connect to other places in the branch to exchange data.

    6. laycockmark


      I agree - but what he should do is appoint a (voluntary) rep in every country he can find (worldwide) and get them to obtain a distro injuction based on breach of copyright and/or use of unlicensed proprietary software in his behalf for that country. Would be interesting to see how the judicial system handles it especially since obtaining injunctions is relatively inexpensive but wholly binding on any distribtuor.

    7. foo_bar_baz


      Copyright protects the code from being copied, not an idea, look or functionality. If he'd trademarked his icon he'd have a very strong case.

      1. Def Silver badge

        Re: Copyright

        "If he'd trademarked his icon he'd have a very strong case."

        And if he'd patented his idea, he'd have an even stronger one. *This* is what patents were originally designed for. Protecting new ideas from being copied while a product is created and sold. Not for guessing what someone might need in five years time and trolling them to hell and back.

        1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge


          He'd have a hard time trademarking his icon, which is really made up of two already existing icons.

          Having said that... he probably could have trade marked the icon based on how the USPTO is so inept.

        2. rurik bradbury

          The idea is obvious

          And anyone could have told the developer that Apple was working on something like this. There is no legal case here, and I'd argue there is no moral case either.

          1. Handle This
            Thumb Down

            Re: "The idea is obvious" -- 10th June 2011 13:23 GMT

            "There is no legal case here, and I'd argue there is no moral case either."

            1. "There is no legal case here" -- You're wrong.

            2. "I'd argue there is no moral case either." -- You can make that argument, but you'd be wrong. Again.

            Of course, this is based only on my over 20 years of successful legal practice in the United States. Other jurisdictions can vary widely, just as can our opinions.

      2. ErikVeland


        Except for the fact that the WiFi/AirPort icon is Apple's trademark in the first place. Now who ripped off who?

      3. Gil Grissum


        If he didn't trademark his idea, then he was either naive or an idiot. If Microsoft had done this, everyone would be calling for them to be sued. Apple does it and what, it's ok? He should sue the pants off them and get them to "settle out of court".

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        "If he'd trademarked his icon he'd have a very strong case."

        I wouldn't have thought so. I'll bet if you take a look you'll find very similar icons have been in use for fairly similar apps. Furthermore it uses two designs which are pretty much accepted standards. The two arrows in a circle have been used to donate synchronization and that little wifi logo has been standard almost since wireless networking existed.

        Or in short I doubt he could trademark that icon.

      5. John Molloy

        "If he'd trademarked his icon he'd have a very strong case."

        Save that "his icon" consists of Apple's icon for wi-fi inside Apple's logo for sync.

        So yes he probably has a strong case for insertion of two of Apple's icons being ripped off...

    8. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. tomasio

        I was a teenage Apple fanboy (and I am now a grown-up critic)

        First: I read a lot about the app which Greg Hughes developed, and according to the user comments at his twitter account (@flukes1) it was a very buggy product with long update cycles. nonetheless Apple stole his idea w/o a doubt and should be sued for this.


        My relationship with apple products goes back a rather long way: It started with the use of a Apple LC II as Ad Lecturer at a newspaper 1994, at a time where Apple focused on user friendly and production oriented Desktop Computers. I was satisfied with Apple untill I purchased an iPhone 3G in January 2009, when I noticed a radical change in the company's customer policy.

        Suddenly I was the owner of a overpriced gadget which I thought was my legitimate property in goods which I can use freely as (to use a metaphor) a car which I drive in any direction I like, as I was used to do with my former apple products. I had to found out that I was placed on the co-driver's seat where you can watch Apple manipulate your iPhone at every iOS update the way _they_ like.

        As Apple released iOS 3 they included a tethering option so that I could use my iPhone as modem connecting my Macbook Pro to the internet everywhere my mobile carrier network allowed me to. The ability to use that feature was one main reason why I was willing to pay € 45,-/month to my carrier T-Mobile Austria by then.

        But Apple decided silently to drop this feature for many users with the update iOS 3.1 which closed out every unlocked iPhone, and obviously also iPhones bought with carrier contracts like mine. After a lot of communication between my carrier (they pointed me to apple) and apple (they pointed me to my carrier) the next iOS update brought tethering back. I was stunned that a company is able to remove features from your property without even asking the customer. To further stretch the car metaphor, it's like removing the car navigation system at a car service w/o asking the owner. Who would tolerate that?

        Now they came up with the Mac App Store which scans your computer for software and sends some of the information gathered to Apple. WTF does Apple give the right to scan _my_ property? The article commented is just another step of Apple pursuing its way to the dark side like Microshaft did a long time before them. In a long run I hope that the Apple users will wake up and show Steve Jobs and his company they will not tolerate this.

        1. Jason 38

          iPhone Tethering

          Most of your post seems to go on about tethering. The carrier sets this on/off in their carrier bundle. 3.1 saw this as the carriers wanted to manage how much data was consumed this way. And posibly charge for it.

    9. No, I will not fix your computer
      Big Brother

      Looks dodgy..... but

      Given wireless sync isn't exactly new (my Sony Palm TH55 was happily doing this sort of thing both directly to my PC (adhoc) or via a wireless router years ago), I'm genuinely surprised that this feature was missing for so long, also the icon is rather obvious (it's a wee bit predictable).

      Does it look like Apple have screwed him over? yes, but I don't think he could sue Apple any more than he could sue everybody else that had similar apps.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        "I'm genuinely surprised that this feature was missing for so long"

        along with a lot of the features that are on a iphone, they should hve been there in the first place and when they do arrive its to a fanfare of 1000 trumpets and apple make out that they have just invented this new feature !!

        Sherlock , because only he could deduce how apple have gotten away with this for so long....

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Buy Apple

    Buy deceit.

    1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

      All Your Apps Are Belong To Us

      as title

  3. Craigness

    I hope he sues

    As per title

  4. Originone

    I'm trying...

    really hard to be shocked, or appaled. Even the slightest bit surprised would do. Instead i just get a creeping sense of resignation.

    The fact that they were so blatant about it goes to show they know we know and they just don't give a flying...

  5. tedl

    Or maybe Apple rejects app already in the plan for a future release?

    You guy crack me up. Yeah the concept of wireless syncing never entered the minds of Apple engineers before this guy submitted his app.Apple will reject any app that conflicts with any of their own current or future app plans. This is old news and has already been whined about endlessly.

    1. A handle is required

      When you put it that way


      I completely agree with you, but think that you underestimate Apple's abilities; they were the original creators of the Wi-Fi Sync concept. However, a little known fact about Apple is that they've also created every other thing that exists now and that ever will exist.


    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Actually, yes

        If you would care to look up at your icon bar at the top of your screen (what do you mean you don't own a Mac? - see here: )

        you will notice that the Apple sync icon which has been in use for years, is two arrows in a circle. They put these arrows around things that sync. They also appear next to the iPhone / iPad etc in iTunes when it's syncing (they animate while syncing). Putting them around the Apple wifi symbol (the curved lines in a triangle to the right of that image above) is simply the obvious visual indicator for 'wireless sync'.

        It would be more accurate to say the other guy took two standard Apple icons, put them together in an 'obvious' way, stylised them a bit to make them look a bit different, then used that as his icon, then complained when Apple used their own icons in a similar way.

      2. rurik bradbury

        Unlikely the logo was stolen

        Apple has hundreds of thousands of apps in its store. And its graphic design team is totally separate from the app review team. The fact that the app was rejected means it is LESS likely that the icon design people saw it (and could therefore copy it).

        My guess: its sheer coincidence they are the same. The wifi symbol and the sync symbol are both ubiquitous. And combining them is highly generic.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      They may have thought of it

      But if they didn't do it and someone did first. Tough Luck on them, I thought of the wind up radio about 5 years before the guy that brought it to market, probably like a few others, so doe sthat mean because i thought of it I shold get the profits.... or maybe it should be the guy that actually realised it

      1. Tom Sparrow
        Thumb Up

        @AC 08:58

        That's exactly how it works, didn't you know?

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Crooked metaphor, your anonymousness...

        Had you engineered and built said radio and offered it to this gentleman, who upon rejecting it took it apart, reverse engineered it, patented it and brought it to marked, you would sqeak differently.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. David_H

        Or made it

        Craft, Design and Technology 'O' level 1982

        Trevor Bayliss realised the product, comercialised the idea, and got the credit - so what?

        Thomas Edison did the same with Joseph Swan's light bulb

        What Apple has done is more like the actions of Alexander Bell, who stole Antoni Meucci's telephone. Another case of the rich and powerful stealing from the smaller man (or in Meucii's case pennyless). It took how many years before the US Congress finally admitted its regulatory ineptitude and restored Meucci as the rightful inventor of the telephone?

        1. david wilson


          >>"What Apple has done is more like the actions of Alexander Bell, who stole Antoni Meucci's telephone."

          Well, if /that's/ what Apple has done, then I must conclude that Antoni Meucci's telephone was something that was not only obvious and not ridiculously hard to make, but was already being produced by various other people long before he invented it.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down


      If it was already in the pipeline then Apple could and should have handled this is in a much more intelligent, ethical and straightforward way. You know, they could have just told him ... What they did looks dishonest and arrogant even if it wasn't intended that way (hard to believe but not impossible).

      1. david wilson


        >>"You know, they could have just told him"

        Speaking as a distinct non-Apple fan, I'd have to say that even though they *could*, they're not under any obligation (even a moral one, as far as I can see) to tell some random individual what they're currently developing, particularly if part of their marketing strategy for new products or updates seems to keeping people guessing and then announcing even fairly obvious features as some kind of miraculous development only they could have thought of even if the idea was not only obvious, but long in use elsewhere.

        Secrecy and hype is part of their (unfortunately apparently successful) philosophy of selling stuff to a certain subset of the population, and it's highly predictable that that secrecy would extend to keeping internal plans unpublicised.

        Also, even if they *had* replied saying "Sorry, but we're already working on that idea", that wouldn't have actually helped him much (that kind of reply might even have put some people off independent publishing), and wouldn't have been likely to satisfy him (or anyone else) that the idea wasn't being ripped off unless they were shown proof at the time of the rejection that the idea really was being worked on independently, which much of the time a company may well be understandably unlikely to want to do.

        Effectively, them not telling him what they were working on is consistent with both them ripping him off and them actually already working on the idea, so it doesn't have value as evidence either way.

        Personally, I'd love to see a story about someone going to Apple with an idea that was so non-obvious that Apple's subsequent development could only have been ripping the idea off, but this story seems about as far from that as it's possible to get.

        Sure, there's hypocrisy on Apple's part for making a fuss about 'appstore' and the like while seemingly relying on the obviousness of an idea/name/logo to justify their apparent duplication of it, but that seems to be about all they could reliably be accused of.

  6. mafoo
    Big Brother


    Well there's airdrop that totally blatant.

    On the other hand, I not sure iOS developers have anything to do with the approvals process - so they probably didn't even see it. Its just the airport logo with some sync arrows around it.

    Do you honestly think apple's highly paid developers and marketing department are sitting at the end off the approvals process denying yet another pull my finder app? Unlikely.

    1. Arctic fox

      @mafoo Re "Well"

      "Do you honestly think apple's highly paid developers and marketing department are sitting at the end off the approvals process denying yet another pull my finder app? Unlikely."

      It is possible that you have a point. However, it does leave an impression that suggests that the company's highly paid image management people are rather falling down on the job.


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