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Apple Rips Off Rejected App, Says Wireless Sync Developer 549

Posted by timothy
from the excuse-me-were-you-using-that-app-and-logo dept.
Haedrian writes "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.' Last year, UK developer Greg Hughes submitted an app for wirelessly syncing iPhones with iTunes libraries, which was rejected from the official App Store. Fast forward to Monday, when Apple unveiled a set of new features for the upcoming iOS 5, including the same wireless-syncing functionality. Cupertino wasn't even subtle about the appropriation, using the precise name and a near-identical logo to market the technology."
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Apple Rips Off Rejected App, Says Wireless Sync Developer

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  • in this age (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 10, 2011 @12:46AM (#36396876)

    in this age of corporate hypocrisy, it amazes me how any company has fanboys at all.

  • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@RABBI ... minus herbivore> on Friday June 10, 2011 @12:50AM (#36396894) Journal
    Apple may have been working on this functionality for iOS 5, when Hughes released his version, but that doesn't excuse the arrogant behavior. At the very least, they could have brought him in as a consultant or paid him for his efforts.
    • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Friday June 10, 2011 @01:45AM (#36397156)

      They did ask for his resume when they rejected his app.

      The whole thing is ridiculous. I'm a huge Apple hater but only because usually it's Apple claiming this nonsense *cough app store* but it's clearly an obvious idea that iPhones competitors already do. And his logo is just a composition of the universal icons for Sync and Wifi. (Then again his logo is substantially more legible, so bravo to him)

      And I'm sure he used some interesting and impressive hacks to trick the iphone into wirelessly syncing. Apple has no need to do that, they can just add APIs directly to the OS so there is no need to steal his code.

      Furthermore, even the developer doesn't seem to care.

      • by KingSkippus (799657) on Friday June 10, 2011 @02:48AM (#36397440) Homepage Journal

        That's BS. It's the exact same functionality with the exact same name and damn near the exact same logo. If it were one or two of those things, I might be willing to chalk it up to coincidence or obviousness. But the whole trifecta? After Apple engineers have had exclusive access to his app and acknowledged that they were impressed by it? And after it's been highly visible on Cydia? (If you don't think Apple engineers are looking at Cydia apps, I've got a bridge I'd like to sell you...) To pretend like it's all just some big coinkidink?

        No sir, I don't buy it, not for a damn minute. I think they were impressed with his app so much that they decided to add it to their own feature list to be implemented, turn it down to deny him money and reputation he should have been earning, saw it doing well on Cydia, and pushed it out as an "upgrade" so that everyone will be zealously adoring of how smart they are for something they should have had working from day one and that someone else smarter than them figured out before they could.

        This was blatant abuse of their power as gatekeeper of the one and only official app store. It's disgusting, and while I'm usually not a fan of IP lawsuits, I hope this guy wins a million or three in damages for what Apple denied to him. He has provable damages and has them dead to rights for wholesale stealing his work. In the US, this would be an obvious violation of copyright and probably trademark too. Hopefully in the UK they have similar enough laws that it would be there, too.

        And what the hell difference does it make if they asked him for his résumé? Did they offer him a job? Apparently not. If anything, that sounds patronizing to me, kind of like, "Let's dote some praise on the guy whose work we're going to steal. Maybe he'll just stupidly go away and not bother us."

        And yeah, it pisses me off even more that these are the same bastards that go after people who have the unmitigated gall to call something iWhatever or offer to sell apps in a--gasp!--app store!

        • by shmlco (594907) on Friday June 10, 2011 @04:09AM (#36397692) Homepage

          That's enough. I, personally, submitted a feedback request to Apple FOUR YEARS AGO requesting Wireless Synchronization for my very first iPhone. Not to mention that practically every Apple and iPhone and industry tech blogger known to man have ALSO requested the same exact feature for years now. Google it.

          Or do you think they watch Cydia, but don't read their own mail nor follow industry bloggers and journalists?

          Second, as has been said, the logo is an obvious mashup of the Apple logo for iSync and the AirPort WiFi logo. iSync is eight years old. AirPort (and the WiFi application logo) are TWELVE years old. So who copied whom, here?

          Third, Apple's logo is for the feature, not an app. WiFI sync is baked into the OS.

          Finally, Apple rejected his app not due to some conspiracy, but because in order to sync the iTunes library you have to break the application directory sandboxing rule, and that's an automatic fail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

      • by perpenso (1613749) on Friday June 10, 2011 @02:50AM (#36397446)

        And I'm sure he used some interesting and impressive hacks to trick the iphone into wirelessly syncing.

        Well **IF** he went the undocumented API route then there would be no conspiracy regarding the app rejection. Undocumented APIs are an automatic rejection, it may even be part of the automated prescreening process -- completely automated, no human judgement call.

        • by agentgonzo (1026204) on Friday June 10, 2011 @04:18AM (#36397730)
          From what I understood of his app when I took a look at it on Cydia, it writes to system files that the Apple T&Cs do not allow you to do. This is why it got rejected by apple for 'security concerns' (because it's writing to areas it shoudn't). Whether this is done by undocumented APIs or standard iOS APIs I do not know.

          As for the name/logo. It's syncing over wifi. There are two very obvious names: "Wifi Sync" and "Sync Wifi" for this. And the logo is the most obvious choice for a logo: The composition of the wifi logo and the sync logo. If you'd have asked me to come up with a name/logo for this I would have come up with exactly the same thing. I do not think that Apple ripped him off - he's just trying to make noise.

          And yes, Apple should have put wireless synching in with iOS 1...
          • by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo@NOspaM.world3.net> on Friday June 10, 2011 @05:30AM (#36398032) Homepage

            Microsoft were guilty of anti-competitive behaviour for allowing their apps to use undocumented APIs in Windows. It seems like Apple is doing exactly the same thing but worse because they can ban things from the App Store, which is the only non-hack way of getting apps onto the phone. In fact they got into hot water over banning apps that "duplicate functionality" (i.e. compete with them) before.

            Why shouldn't there be two wireless sync apps for iOS? Maybe someone can come up with a better solution than Apple, give users a choice.

      • by xded (1046894)

        Furthermore, even the developer doesn't seem to care.

        From TFA:

        Since the official rejection, Hughes's app has become one of the most popular offered in the Cydia store, with more than 50,000 sold in the past 13 months. Throughout that time, Wi-Fi Sync has cost $9.99, not including occasional promotional discounts. Hughes declined to say how much he has grossed in sales [...]

        Maybe that's why he's not interested. And maybe that's also why Apple didn't feel the need to pay him for his efforts...

    • The original AppleTV used wifi syncing. iPod/iPhone wireless syncing has been anticipated for years. If this developer had anything whatsoever to offer, Apple would hire him.
  • It seems his app violated the developer agreement from TFA:
    that it did things not specified in the official iPhone software developers' kit.

    It's not news that Apple devs aren't constrained by the same agreement as other developers. If you use private/undocumented APIs then it's common knowledge that you'll probably get rejected so why even bother?
    • Re:Violate the TOS? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by msauve (701917) on Friday June 10, 2011 @01:08AM (#36396974)
      Didn't Microsoft lose an anti-trust suit (2002) for using undocumented Windows APIs to their own advantage against independent developers? Why should Apple be different?
      • by superwiz (655733) on Friday June 10, 2011 @01:18AM (#36397012) Journal
        For one, because they don't have a monopoly on "smart" phones. Having a legally recognized monopoly is not illegal. But it does restrict actions which a monopolist can take in the market place. Since Apple doesn't have 100% of the market, they clearly don't have a monopoly. So the range of actions they can take is wider than a range of actions a monopolist would.
        • by hahn (101816)
          Having 100% of the market is not the definition of a monopoly. If it were, then Microsoft didn't have a monopoly. From Wikipedia:

          In economics, a monopoly (from Greek monos / (alone or single) + polein / (to sell)) exists when a specific individual or an enterprise has sufficient control over a particular product or service to determine significantly the terms on which other individuals shall have access to it.

          The main issue is leverage. Can anyone argue that Apple *doesn't* have leverage?

          • by Fjandr (66656)

            Not enough leverage, despite the claims of fanboys that Apple is the dominant smartphone provider.

            They're actually #3, though supporters like to claim they're #2 by including all iOS devices, regardless of whether they can make actual phone calls or not.

            • by Dahamma (304068) on Friday June 10, 2011 @02:10AM (#36397302)

              But in this case the important market statistic is not the number of *smartphones* sold, it's the number of smartphone *apps* sold. The monopoly in question is developer access to the platform, not customer access.

              Besides, who really give a crap about market share by units? Market share by profit margin is all that really matters. Apple makes a metric crapload of money on each device (the Android manufacturers make a lot less, and Google makes almost nothing).

              And more relevant to this thread, Apple has almost 70% of the smartphone app market by number of apps, and over 90% of the market by sales. Statistics over the last year have clearly shown Android users just don't like paying for apps the way iPhone users do. That's more than enough leverage over app developers.

      • by exomondo (1725132)

        Didn't Microsoft lose an anti-trust suit (2002) for using undocumented Windows APIs to their own advantage against independent developers? Why should Apple be different?

        Because Microsoft had a monopoly on the operating system market, Apple doesn't have a monopoly on the smarphone market.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Belial6 (794905)
          Microsoft didn't have a monopoly on the operating system market. The had a monopoly on the very narrowly defined consumer desktop OS market. By the same token, Apple has a monopoly on the iOS market.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Uberbah (647458)

            Hmmm no. You don't have to have 100% marketshare to be a monopolist, but enough to negatively effect both customers and competitors.

            Which Microsoft obviously had in spades.

            By the same token, Apple has a monopoly on the iOS market.

            Riiiight. Just like Nintendo has a "monopoly" on Wii's and Ford has a "monopoly" on Mustangs.

            You're using that word, "monopoly", it it doesn't mean whatever it is you think it means.

      • by camperslo (704715) on Friday June 10, 2011 @02:51AM (#36397454)

        Why should Apple be different?

        Because the situation is completely different.

        MS used undocumented OS features in Office, leveraging their OS to advantage in selling a separate expensive app suite which was in direct competition with third party products in a standard category of user app software.

        In this case, the app, which broke stated rules in using a private API, clearly was treading in areas relating to core OS functionality. Users must not be subjected to modifications that may break when the OS is updated. A syncing utility can strongly affect network traffic, device speed, bandwidth costs, battery life, local or remote data loss or corruption... (error handling must account for many possible situations). Clearly such sensitive areas are appropriately controlled by Apple in order to uniformly achieve optimal performance.

        Apple is not selling a competing app.
        Some of the things Apple has developed or enhanced have been made open source in the interests of advancing the art, and can actually be used by competitors.
        I believe a couple of those technologies would be called on by a well written syncing utility. Bonjour a service discovery protocol, and launchd a unified, service management framework for starting, stopping and managing daemons, applications, processes, and scripts. Obviously Apple started working with syncing many years ago.

        Apple has promoted open-standards and has put a great deal of effort into Webkit, an open source browser technology that is widely used (in Apple's Safari, and also on Android)

        There are people that look for excuses to bash Apple. This isn't a situation where that is appropriate. Someone submitted an app that broke rules, and now some whine about the consequences. It's destructive and distracting enough when political parties banter over nonsense. Shouldn't people with some technological understanding attempt to rise above that sort of thing? Time to move along...

        https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Launchd [wikimedia.org]

        https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Bonjour_(software) [wikimedia.org]

        https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Webkit [wikimedia.org]

    • That's hardly an adequate explanation. I'll bet that iPhone SDK does not specify a bird throwing API... so surely Angry Birds is in violation for doing "things not specified in the official iPhone software developers' kit" too :)
      • by exomondo (1725132)

        That's hardly an adequate explanation. I'll bet that iPhone SDK does not specify a bird throwing API... so surely Angry Birds is in violation for doing "things not specified in the official iPhone software developers' kit" too :)

        well obviously they are alluding to it using undocumented APIs.

  • Firstly, Apple may have rejected the app precisely because they were already developing the technology for iOS5 and knew that a syncing app would be redundant when iOS5 came out (and may have got into more trouble by allowing the app and then bringing out wireless sync technology in iOS5 when an app already provided the functionality.) Also, a third party app is not the place for this technology: it should be embedded in iOS5 as Apple are doing. Secondly, the logo combines the wireless logo (which is stand
    • by John Allsup (987)
      I may have written a little too soon. But I still believe that built in to and a standard part of iOS5 is the right place for this kind of technology, not a paid for app.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        And Microsoft believed the same of the web browser. Is bundling ok now?

      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        So whenever an outside party thinks of an idea that would be better suited at the OS level, they shouldn't be allowed to publish it at all?

    • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Friday June 10, 2011 @01:10AM (#36396984)

      Not only that, but they apparently had other grounds for rejecting it as well, such as the fact that it used private APIs, from the sounds of things in the article. That alone is grounds for a rejection.

      And yeah, both the name and logo were obvious, non-trademarked, and based on existing ideas. What else would you call something that syncs over Wi-Fi besides "Wi-Fi Sync"? I didn't even realize it was an official name of the service during the keynote, and just thought it was the term used to describe what it does. And using the Wi-Fi and syncing insignias only makes sense, as you point out.

      Plus, they added Wi-Fi Sync as part of their effort to cut the cord, which tied in with the iCloud announcement, and it's not like iCloud was thought up yesterday, given that they had to build that massive data center in North Carolina which has been covered extensively.

      • by Rennt (582550)

        And yeah, both the name and logo were obvious, non-trademarked, and based on existing ideas. What else would you call something that syncs over Wi-Fi besides "Wi-Fi Sync"?

        I know you're right... but somehow I don't think that's going to stop Apple registering them. I mean, what else are you going to call a store that sells apps?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by rampant mac (561036)

      "Secondly, the logo combines the wireless logo (which is standard and is not an invention of this student) with the sync logo (two arrows round a circle) which is again standard and predates this student's app.

      Someone trolled "fanboi" but let's take a look at that logo...

      Hmm, Apple Airport - released in 1999 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AirPort). Note that wireless icon there, it looks rather familiar, eh? If you click the picture, you'll note the original picture was uploaded in April 2007 (http://upload.

    • I can almost buy the logo explanation, but if the rest of your explanation is true, it's almost as bad as Apple stealing the app, because it indicates a private set of tests that will be applied to an app, namely "Maybe we're developing our own app, your app will compete it with it, therefore we're going to squash your app."

      Quite frankly, your explanation turns Apple from a thief into a capricious pack of assholes. I'm not sure which is worse, from a developer's point of view.

    • by Fjandr (66656)

      Secondly, the logo combines the wireless logo (which is standard and is not an invention of this student) with the sync logo (two arrows round a circle) which is again standard and predates this student's app. Combining the two in the obvious way makes sense and it is hard to think of a better way of doing it.

      That it is an obvious combination is irrelevant. Trademarks are first-come, first-served. The only question is whether the developer applied for trademark protection. If he did, he would win against Ap

    • by iamhassi (659463)
      Thank you, finally someone explains it perfectly. The real question is how did this even make it to the news? Seems rather obvious that wireless syncing would become a feature at some point. He should be happy he sold 50,000 copies at $10 a pop.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Rejecting it because it would be in IOS5, that doesn't help people prior to the release IOS5 and kills a nice little niche market for those who don't want to updgrade to IOS5

      The smell of corruption is strong in this one
      Combined with apple having proven itself time and time again to be a "do as I say, not as I do company"
      It is the sort of thing that companies can get away with due to trade secrets and closed source.
      The only way we can know for sure is for a disgruntled employee to spill the beans.

      I can neve
  • Sad... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rampant mac (561036) on Friday June 10, 2011 @12:52AM (#36396908)

    "Since the official rejection, Hughes's app has become one of the most popular offered in the Cydia store, with more than 50,000 sold in the past 13 months. Throughout that time, Wi-Fi Sync has cost $9.99, not including occasional promotional discounts."

    I wish I could come up with a rejection that earned me a few hundred grand. He must be crying while rolling around in all that money.

    • by ffejie (779512)
      Agreed that he's making some nice cash, especially as a one man team. I don't know how Cydia does their payouts, but assuming it's 50% for the developers, he hasn't made that much. Specifically, because there are discounts offered. It appears that it's gone as low as $2.99 during certain sales. If you assume that 50% of the sales actually came during the discount period, the math looks like this:

      (50,000 downloads X 50% of sales X $9.99 + 50,000 downloads X 50% of sales X $2.99 ) X 50% Cydia Payout = $16
    • by microbee (682094)

      You would have been richer had you spent more time on real work than throwing sarcastic comments at others' well-reserved successes.

  • oh, like apple? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by perryizgr8 (1370173) on Friday June 10, 2011 @01:12AM (#36396994)

    like how apple stole hardware tech from nokia, ericsson, etc and never paid them royalties?

  • Both Logos are a combination of the universal wifi symbol, and the universal sync symbol. If you asked a room full of graphics designers to come up with a wifi sync logo, that's what half of them would have made. Besides the basic shapes involved, they're pretty dissimilar in terms of design and color. Still, what do you expect coming from The Register. Didn't they just run a thing about how hackers can now email you grenades and blow up your computer?
    • by exomondo (1725132)

      Both Logos are a combination of the universal wifi symbol, and the universal sync symbol.

      Not to mention they are both called 'WiFi Sync'...so they've taken a bunch of obvious features and packaged them together, I agree there's nothing wrong with that but I do seem to remember them suing a company for doing exactly that.

  • No standing (Score:2, Insightful)

    Let me save you a few minutes RTFA.

    an app for wirelessly syncing iPhones with iTunes libraries

    ... is such an obvious idea that talking about "stealing" it is meaningless. It is also something that has existed for some time on other platforms - e.g. Samsung Android phones can do wireless sync of pretty much everything since Galaxy S. So he can't claim the idea.

    Cupertino wasn't even subtle about the appropriation, using the precise name and a near-identical logo to market the technology

    Let me clarify something here. The precise name in question is "Wi-Fi Sync". For an application that syncs your phone over wireless. Gee, that's one obscure name for this kind of app - no way Apple could have

    • by exomondo (1725132)

      The precise name in question is "Wi-Fi Sync". For an application that syncs your phone over wireless. Gee, that's one obscure name for this kind of app - no way Apple could have stumbled onto that by chance!

      I agree with you but FWIW I would have thought they would have used a name like AirSync or something.

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      I don't think anyone is bashing Apple because they decided to implement an obvious feature with an obvious name and an obvious icon in their phone. The bashing is due to rejecting an app and then implemented the feature set in their OS.

      Regardless of how you try and sugar coat it what Apple did was flat out anti-competitive. If you replace the word Apple, with Microsoft all of Slashdot would be up in arms and the DoJ would take an interest as well. But because the order came from Jobs almighty himself everyo

  • Precedent? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by D-OveRMinD (1517467) on Friday June 10, 2011 @01:30AM (#36397078)
    So if a wi-fi syncing app called Wi-Fi Sync is obvious, therefore Apple can steal...er...appropriate it for its own use without repercussions, then I would assume by the same token that a store selling apps called App Store is obvious, therefore anyone can appropriate the name for their own use as well. Apple, what say you?
  • Yet another article makes Slashdot, well after it has been thoroughly torn to shreds as bullshit on Reddit, Hacker News, and other sites. Why can't Slashdot editors take a quick look at other, more timely sites to see if a submission is total BS before approving it?

    Quick summary of the problems with this article. First, people have been asking for wireless sync as soon as iPhone launched. It is idiotic to think they got the idea from this guy's app.

    Second, Apple in fact implemented wireless sync for AppleTV

  • the Apple sync logo has always been rotating arrows, and the wireless logo has always been the same , so logically wi-fi sync will combine the two items. So sue Apple, if they stole your (TM) trademark. As for the concept of Wi-Fi sync, what It was your unique idea? c'mon, it was probably on Apple's to do list. If they stole code, then you have a beef, if they came out with a similar item, well stand in line with all of the people that duplicate ideas, the world if full of them.

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