Heartless computer company Apple has waded into a patent dispute and taken action which could prevent a mute four year old girl from communicating with her parents.
But the creators of the app were sued for patent infringement by Prentke Romich Company (PRC) and Semantic Compaction Systems (SCS). The two companies make expensive communication devices and do not make anything for the iPad.
Whether or not Speak for Yourself does break any patents is something for a court to decide and will take years.
But Maya’s parents were stunned when suddenly the iPad app was yanked by Jobs’ Mob.
It happened soon after the app helped Maya start to makes requests like tapping out “I want cookie please” and started using the app to make four year old jokes.
According to a court document, PRC/SCS contacted Apple and requested that Speak for Yourself be removed from the iTunes store, claiming that it infringes on their patents.
Apple asked for a response from Speak for Yourself and its lawyer told them the infringement claims were unfounded. Jobs’ Mob was shown details of the open court case, and it was pointed out to them that PRC/SCS had not asked the court for an injunction ordering the app to be removed from the store.
However it seems that Apple decided to act as the judge and jury of its own and notified Speak for Yourself that the app had been removed.
Its reason was that the dispute with PRC/SCS had not been resolved quick enough.
So far the software still runs, but Maya’s parents are worried about what will happen soon. The Speak for Yourself team has lost the ability to send out updates or repairs to the people who are currently using the app.
At any moment Apple could update the iPad’s operating system and render Speak for Yourself useless. The iPad could also break. If it does then the app could stop working, and Maya would be left speechless.
If that were not bad enough, PRC/SCS could ask Apple to remotely delete the copies of Speak for Yourself that were already purchased, citing that the app was illegally infringing upon their patents.
While there has been no indication that PRC or SCS would do such a thing, the way Jobs’ Mob has behaved so far indicates that they would probably consider doing that if they asked.
Maya’s mum, Dana said that before the app was pulled she would never have thought that Apple would comply without a court injunction. Now it seems that it thinks it can do what it likes and damn the consequences.
” My daughter cannot speak without this app. She cannot ask us questions. She cannot tell us that she’s tired, or that she wants yogurt for lunch. She cannot tell her daddy that she loves him,” Dana said.
Dana does not believe that anyone should have the power to take this away from her. The only problem is that Apple believes it has that right.
While it would take a truly dedicated Apple fanboy to claim that Jobs’ Mob really cares about its users these days, the fact that it is prepared to arrogantly stop a disabled four year-old’s best crack at speaking because it can, really does take the cake.