Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Speak for Yourself

Keith Wagstaff (via Jeff Johnson):

The app is being threatened by a joint lawsuit from Prentke Romich Company (PRC) and Semantic Compaction Systems, which claim that Heidi LoStracco and Renee Collender — the two speech pathologists behind Speak for Yourself — infringed on over 100 of their software patents. LoStracco and Collender fought back, claiming in court that the lawsuit is baseless.

Now it seems that despite the fact that the lawsuit is still in court, Apple has pulled Speak for Yourself from the App Store.

Speak for Yourself:

Now our sadness and disappointment have turned to indignation. Speak For Yourself will continue to fight this baseless lawsuit and the obvious, and blatant interference with your fundamental right to a VOICE which is motivated solely by their desire to drive SFY out of existence. That will not happen. We have started our fight in the Court with a motion for an injunction against Semantic and PRC. You can read our court paper by clicking on this link.

PRC employee JDonofrio:

Our patent attorney found more than 100 instances of infringement on the software patents that power our devices. We reached out to the developers of the app and offered various business solutions. All of our offers were refused and they started marketing the app in the iTunes® store late last year. This is the first lawsuit we have filed in our 45 years in business.

Dana Nieder:

According to this court document, here’s how this happened: PRC/SCS contacted Apple and requested that Speak for Yourself be removed from the iTunes store, claiming that it infringes on their patents. In turn, Apple contacted SfY and requested their response to these claims. The lawyer for SfY responded, explaining to Apple exactly why the infringement claims are unfounded, referring Apple to the current open court case, and pointing out that PRC/SCS had not asked the court for an injunction ordering the app to be removed from the store. For months, nothing happened . . . and then on June 4th Apple notified SfY that the app had been removed, due to the fact that the dispute with PRC/SCS had not been resolved.

Just because the app helps people doesn’t mean that it should be allowed to break the law. On the other hand, I have to wonder whether it actually infringes and how many of those software patents should have been granted in the first place. In my view, Apple shouldn’t be making this sort of determination. Let the courts decide the case and decide whether the product should remain on the market in the interim.

Update (2012-06-14): Dan Ravicher:

Savvy actors will learn and then exploit this policy, which will destroy competition and erode developer faith that the iTunes marketplace is hospitable to new entrants. It’s a nearsighted foolish policy that Apple will have to change at some point. Accusations are too easily made to allow them to be the sole basis justifying takedowns.

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