By Aaron Watkins, Co-Founder, Appency PR & Marketing

Any developer who has ever tried submitting an app to iTunes that contains “Chuck Norris” in its keywords or features knows that the reviewers at Apple are keeping a watchful eye on precious copyrights and intellectual property rights… or are they?  More and more developers are raising red flags as an alarming number of blatant copyright infringements make their way past the watchful eye of big brother app store and into general circulation, taking profits away from hard working developers who have followed the proper channels.

It used to be common for copycat developers to throw dozens of keywords into their app descriptions in order to ride the coat tails of the successful. In response to complaints however, Apple instituted revised search features that no longer used the description as a source for keywords. Now, the only searchable items to find an application are the apps name, the 100 characters of keywords allotted to each app, and the company name.

Leave it to the dastardly to find a way around it.

Method #1: Don’t just create a copycat app – steal the app title as well!

While there will always be a number of quotes apps, 23,000 Great Quotes was one of the first, and its aesthetics and vast amount of content has helped it reach the top Lifestyle lists and the HD version get chosen by Apple to promote during the iPad launch.

Launched this week, 23,000 quotes is… well… the same app, but without the great design, and by a different developer. While I have not given the developer the $1.99 to check to see if it’s the same 23,000 quotes, it’s a funny number to magically appear on a another quotes . A few months ago we also saw “+ 23,000 Great Quotes” appear on the app store, only to be taken away when Cramzy submitted a formal complaint to Apple for the obvious rip off.

This is not as uncommon as you might think, as in just the last week another of our clients encountered the exact same problem:

FirstWords: Animals has been a run-away hit with the toddler crowd. My own year and a half year old actually steals my iPhone and walks around the house saying the letter i over and over until I turn this app on for her. A YouTube video of the iPad version of the app being tested by a two year old had over 1MM  viewers around the time the iPad launch. It’s a simple concept, children can move the letters around on the screen to spell the animal pictured. Once the word is complete, the animal makes its noise and you move on to the next one. A picture is worth a thousand words… and the image from the app store is very self explanatory.

With the success of FirstWords however, the app Xerox machines moved in. May I present to you – My First Words: Animals!

I think what bugs me the most about this one is that they didn’t even have the creativity to change the images in iTunes to make it look slightly different! I mean really… couldn’t you have at least gone with “DOG” and “PONY” for your show… Or maybe just the cat image three times to show how much of a copycat you really are.

The most recent tactic has been even more devious.

Method #2: Cant rip off the app? Just take its branding.

I love the icons for Little Metal Ball and its supped up version, Little Metal Ball Gold. The colors are great, the image is clear and the contrasts really make it pop. Today, XMG Studio, the developers, sent me an email telling me to look at a new app called “Ball Jumps”.  Here’s what I found:

Not only did the app blatantly steal the icon from a classic app store game (one that reached #1 worldwide!), but the app itself is, to put it nicely, crap. It’s a poor attempt at a Doodle Jump clone, and the app itself looks nothing like the icon.

There is a huge difference between abusive cloning, and creating new apps of the same genre. You’ll find a million FPS games, Tower Defense and Match 3 games in iTunes, all of which take their own approaches on the style. Some of the biggest hits in the app store are not the first to do their style –  Doodle Jump is a great game, but  PapiJump was there first, and Im a huge fan of Pocket Devil and Angry Birds , both of which came after originals (yes, even Angry Birds – if you ask what came first, the Angry Bird or the Egg, the answer is actually neither – try an app called Crush the Castle! Personally, I’m looking forward to “Cannon Cadets” by XMG Studio which looks like a great new approach on this genre.)

There are too many apps in iTunes to properly police them all, so it has become even more important for developers to keep a mindful eye on their apps and bring it up to Apple when a violation occurs.

Please note – we have not provided links to the cloned apps here as we don’t think they deserve the traffic. Have you seen other blatant clones or rip-offs? Let us know!

2 Comments »

  1. hey aaron – Great post. We experienced a ripoff with our app iBrite. not that the concept of a Lite Brite app was totally unique, but they used the exact same name and added “HD”. Just wrong. http://www.ibriteapp.com

    Comment by jen gordon — July 23, 2010 @ 5:05 am

  2. you should contact Apple – “HD” should be reserved for the iPad version of an iPhone app. You shouldnt be able to make “Doodle Jump HD” and try to rip off Lima Sky, etc

    Comment by aaronwatkins — July 23, 2010 @ 8:00 am

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