Apple. The new Microsoft?

Steve Jobs and an Apple spokesperson

I know I keep banging on about this lately but Apple really are becoming the IT company I love to hate. To kick off with it was my own problems with having to keep going back for warranty repairs to a Macbook, which just goes to show that Apple’s much vaunted reliability is only as good as their quality control, and their quality control might not be as good as they’d like to think. Then came Apple’s legal action in Australia against the retailer Woolworths for using a logo that Apple thought looked too much like theirs, in spite of it actually looking close to fuck all like it. And of course earlier this week it was telling customers that a bit of fag smoke invalidated their warranty. Now Apple’s corporate radar has swung back towards intellectual property twattishness again.

A long-time Apple software developer from Sydney fears he may have to lay off most of his staff after draconian Apple legal threats and a rare personal email from Apple chief executive officer Steve Jobs.

Mathew Peterson, 25, has been creating Mac software since he was 17 and one of his most popular products has been “iPodRip”, which allows people to back up their music collections from their iPods on to their computers.

It was an instant hit and particularly useful in emergencies because, if a user’s computer dies and they attempt to connect their iPod to their new machine, all music and videos on the device are usually wiped.

I’m sure I’m not the only iPod owner who wonders what the fuck Apple were thinking of when they decided to make the iPod sync to the computer and not have the option to do it the other way round. Surely a company that actually has the term genius as a fucking job title could foresee a scenario where someone might have ripped a large CD collection to their computer and then to their iPod only for the computer to go tits up and them wanting to sync iTunes on the computer to what they’ve already got on the damn iPod. But no, Apple would rather you rip your CDs all over again. Thanks a fucking bunch Apple, you cock sockets, because Mrs Exile and I had nearly 500 CDs when we bought an iPod and I wouldn’t have been happy if I’d needed to rip them all over again. Fortunately we never had to but you’d only need to be put to the trouble of re-ripping even a moderately sized music collection just once to see the benefit of dropping US$19.95 on iPodRip. Clearly plenty of people have, or worked it out without having a computer cark it, and so iPodRip has turned out to be the major revenue earner for Mathew Peterson’s little company despite being pretty much a word of mouth marketed product. Apparently even Apple staff have recommended it to customers. But now…

Despite iPodRip being available for the past six years, about 2 weeks ago, Peterson received a cease and desist letter from Apple’s lawyers, Baker & McKenzie. It asked him to stop using “iPod” in his software’s name, remove any Apple-related logos from his product and relinquish control of his domain name,

Mathew Peterson has been told that he might well win in court but has decided that Apple’s pockets are too deep for it to be a fair fight and so has decided to comply, but he says that leaves him with a different problem. Losing the domain means his customers no longer know where to find him and his company is starting pretty much from scratch as far as Google searches go. For a company that’s relied so heavily on word of mouth this isn’t good news.

And that’s not all.

As part of the legal agreement with Apple, Peterson says he will be forbidden from stating on his website that the app was previously called iPodRip and will even be unable to send an email to customers informing them that he has had to change the app’s name.

The word ‘cunts’ springs irresistibly to mind. Can’t use the name for the app or the site, can’t say ‘formerly known as’ and can’t even email existing customers to tell them about the name change. Yeah, that’s going to be just fucking great for business, isn’t it? So faced with this Mathew Peterson’s US business partner emailed Steve Jobs himself to appeal to reason and his better nature (quoted en bloc):

Dear Mr. Jobs,
My name is John Devor and I’m the co-owner of a small Mac shareware company named The Little App Factory and a long-term Apple customer and shareholder. I doubt you’re aware but we recently received a letter from a law firm working on Apple’s behalf instructing us that we had violated several of Apple’s trademarks in our application iPodRip and asking us to cease using the name and Apple trademarks in our icons.

We have been distributing iPodRip since 2003 with the aim of providing a method to recover music, movies and photos from iPods and iPhones in the event of a serious hardware failure on their Mac which leads to data loss. Our goal has been to provide the highest quality product coupled with the highest quality service in a bid to resolve some of the angst that is generated by such an ordeal; service befitting of an Apple product. In this department we think we have succeeded as we have approximately 6 million customers, many Apple employees, music artists and other notable people in society. In fact I’d argue that our customer service is the best of all competing applications in our niche as many of them are scams and frauds that leave Apple customers with a terrible taste in their collective mouths.

We fear very much that tens of thousands of Apple customers looking to recover their own music and having heard of our product via word-of-mouth or otherwise, will instead find a product produced by one of our competitors, and will wind up the victim of a scam (one closely-named competitor charges a hidden monthly fee, for instance).

It is quite obvious that we mean Apple no harm with the use of the name iPodRip, or of the inclusion of trademarked items in our icons, and in fact I believe that we have been providing an excellent secondary service to Apple customers that has potentially caused you many repeat clients. In fact, we are quite aware that Apple support and store staff have recommended our software on numerous occasions as far back as 2004 so we have felt that we were doing something right!

With this in mind, we are in desperate need of some assistance and we beseech you to help us to protect our product and our shareware company, both of which we have put thousands upon thousands of hours of work into. Our company goal is to create Mac software of the highest quality with the best user experience possible. I myself dropped out of school recently to pursue a path in the Mac software industry, and you yourself have been a consistent inspiration for me.

If there is anything at all you can do with regards to this matter, we would be most grateful.

John Devor

A few hours later His Arseholiness replied.

Change your apps name. Not that big of a deal.

Nice one, Steve. Why not just to tell them to fuck off and die and be done with it? Yeah, they can just change the name because it’s no big deal, just like you did with the iPhone when Cisco got it’s cock in a knot, or like you did with the name of your whole fucking company when Apple the record label got snotty about it. Except of course you did nothing of the kind.

In January 2007, Apple was sued by Cisco Systems over the use of the “iPhone” trademark. About a month later both companies announced an agreement whereby they were each allowed to use the iPhone name worldwide.

And way back in 1978, Apple Corps (the record label and holding company founded by the Beatles) sued Apple Computer for trademark infringement.

As I recall you got out of that one by promising never to get involved in music. Now since there doesn’t seem much chance of someone confusing a computer manufacturer for the Beatles’ holding company either now or in 1978 frankly I think someone in Southern California should have told John, Paul, George and Ringo to fuck off, but the Beatles were massive and seriously loaded while at that time Apple Computer were a small company that had only been going a couple of years. Apple no doubt felt forced to deal despite the legal bullying they were getting from the much bigger, wealthier and more popular and famous (well, as long as you said ‘Beatles’ rather than Apple Corps) company. Ironic, isn’t it? If Apple had never got involved in music, never made that first iPod or developed iTunes or the iTunes store, there’d be no argument about iPodRip/iRip between Apple and The Little App Factory today. But as things turned out Apple are now in a position to be as dictatorial and unreasonable about names and rights as Apple Corps were to it three decades ago. Legally in the right perhaps, and I don’t pretend to know remotely enough law to say, but as long as there’s no reasonable chance of Joe Bloggs confusing the two companies (or if it really doesn’t make any difference if he does) then I’d still call it unreasonable and dictatorial.

Shame there isn’t a decency and fairness app. I think Apple needs it. Meanwhile I’ll start looking at generic MP3 players for when my elderly 4th gen iPod finally gives up the ghost.


Posted on November 29, 2009, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Apple. The new Microsoft?.

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