Apple unleashes lawyers on those involved with ‘iPhone skins’ for Windows Mobile and Palm devices

Apple’s iPhone “user interface (UI) can be downloaded onto competing devices that are available now,” Asher Moses reports for The Sydney Morning Herald. “Savvy coders have developed iPhone ‘skins’ that work with most smartphones based on the Windows Mobile and Palm operating systems. The issue has angered Apple to such an extent that it has sent its lawyers after a number of those involved – both directly and indirectly. The skins don’t add any new functionality to the devices, but make use of the iPhone’s copyrighted icons to create a UI that distinctly resembles Apple’s hybrid mobile phone.”

MacDailyNews Take: Copies of icons are not a user interface. Moses first sentence is utterly false. Perhaps shoddy reporting is part of the reason why Apple is upset; if people think they can just download “user interfaces” and magically turn their Windows Mobile and Palm dinosaurs into iPhones, it could, in theory, negatively impact Apple’s business.

Moses reports, “Soon after the skins were uploaded to the Brighthand and Xda-developers internet message boards, Apple unleashed its legal team, who sent removal letters to at least one of the websites hosting the files. Apple’s lawyers also sent letters to journalists who simply reported on the fact that the skins were available.”

Moses reports, “Apple’s actions have sparked fury among tech industry watchers, who have accused the company of bullying and being notoriously litigious. ‘I think this is all complete nonsense,’ Michael Arrington, of the influential technology blog TechCrunch, said. ‘If Apple wants to go after the guy that made the Windows Mobile skin that looks like the iPhone, fine. But to bully bloggers who are simply reporting on this is another matter.’ Ironically, Apple’s attempts to have the files removed from the web have only given the skins greater publicity, and they have already begun spreading to other websites.”

Full article with image of an “iPhone skin” here.


Obviously, Apple should go after the makers, if they feel they need to protect their IP, but Apple should leave those reporting the story and showing an image alone. Much ado about nothing, of course, unless people really do start to believe they can just download “user interfaces” and magically turn their Windows Mobile and Palm dinosaurs into iPhones. We doubt Apple would see a meaningful percentage of people who believed they could transform their device into an iPhone with a “skin” download.

If anything, the quick production and dissemination of iPhone skins shows the high level of interest in the device six months before it even ships.

After exacting a bit more free worldwide publicity, Apple should re-leash the hounds and turn their attention to more important things – like getting those new multi-touch UI iPods ready.

38 Comments

  1. I can see why Apple would go after a reporter who states “Apple iPhone interface running on Windows Mobile.” That type of misinformation only fuels the lame assertions that iPhone doesn’t do anything new.

  2. Lawyers are so stupid sometimes. Public image assholes. Sometimes it’s better to let shit slide to avoid looking like an ass. People pick on marketing departments alot, but in cases such as these maybe the lawyers should consult the company’s marketing department.

  3. I don’t know what the fuss is about. Apple has to go after these people, they’re Australians. As a nation of convicts they will pretty much steal anything. If Apple doesn’t nip it in the bud now, who knows what will get purloined next.

  4. @MDN:

    “Apple should re-leash the hounds and turn their attention to more important things – like getting those new multi-touch UI iPods ready”

    Are those hounds going to develop those iPods?

    I mean: Apple is protecting his IP and I think they deserve to.

    AND that is why there are people with different skills. Their lawyers are hired to protect Apple products from copy, not to develop new ones.

    MW: Defense. As in Apple should

  5. Moses is right in the respect that by Apple going after people OTHER than the people making the icons and making them available via the web, they risk a major backfire in advertising it and making it even more popular. Not a good idea Steve.

    I heard from a friend of a friend, who’s uncle told him that…..

  6. Apple learned its lesson over “look and feel” issues during its battle with MS over windows. Steve isn’t about to let that happen again by letting people copy the iPhone interface. They are going to have to buy the real thing and not some cheap imitation. It sounds like they have learned from past mistakes.

  7. Actually, this is exactly the kind of thing that Cisco didn’t do, thus leading them to (most likely) lose their trademark.
    It’s exactly the same thing with copyrights. Apple has to protect them vigorously. This also involves preventing people from aiding the distribution of these materials. If they don’t, the “skins” enter into the public domain, and once that happens, any competitor can use them.
    So, if Apple wants to keep their designs unique, they have to use this heavy-handed approach.

    MW: image. Spooooky!

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