App To Help A Three Year Old Girl Talk Pulled From App Store

App To Help A Three Year Old Girl Talk Pulled From App Store

Imagine for a moment that your three year old daughter has a disability that stops her from using her voice to communicate. Then imagine that a combination of an iPad and a specialized app gave her the ability to talk to you, requesting things, express her needs, and even say, “Daddy, I love you.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d see that iPad and app as some sort of technological miracle.

Now, imagine that the app was pulled from the app store.

That’s exactly what happened to Maya Nieder, a little girl with a disability who needs an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) system to express herself. Typically, devices that do this cost in excess of $5,000. An iPad with specialized software on it can do that for far less – around $300 for the software plus the cost of the specific iPad. Maya’s mom, Dana, is understandably upset.

“Maya can speak to us, clearly, for the first time in her life, writes Dana Neider in her blog. “We are hanging on her every word. We’ve learned that she loves talking about the days of the week, is weirdly interested in the weather, and likes to pretend that her toy princesses are driving the bus to school (sometimes) and to work (other times). This app has not only allowed her to communicate her needs, but her thoughts as well. It’s given us the gift of getting to know our child on a totally different level.”

The lawsuit involves the app developer of Speak For Yourself, Heidi LoStracco and Renee Collender – both speech pahtologists – and an AAC device maker, Prentke Romich Company (PRC). The hardware developer claimed in a lawsuit that the app infringes on over 100 of their patents, and requested that Apple remove the software from their App Store. Collender and LoStracco counter filed, claiming that the lawsuit is baseless.

Regardless, the app has been removed from the App Store by Apple. The lawsuit has not been resolved, either.

Luckily, Maya still has the originally downloaded app on her iPad, so she can use the app to speak. Her parents, however, worry about eventual iOS updates and incompatibility with the AAC app, they worry about a request from PRC to remotely remove the app if it’s found to be infringing, and they worry about not being able to know what their child has to say.

I know how I’d feel.

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  • LTMP

    I heard about this several weeks ago, and wrote a note to the douchebag company asking if they were going to have anything available for the iPad (acting as if I knew nothing about the lawsuit).

    They responded that they were going to be releasing an ipad app very soon.
    Gee.  I wonder why they decided to sue.
    Companies have a right to protect their IP.  But sometimes there has to be a bit of compassion.
    If the lawsuit turns out to be baseless, I hope this crushes their business for good.
    Not that I’m pissed off or anything.
  • ichiroa

    Prentke Romich Company (PRC) is freaking out because iOS and Android is destroying their extortion to health insurance companies and medicaid. I hope the courts does the right thing and invalidates their patents. These companies takes advantage of the FDA and reimbursement caps set for Insurance and Medicaid, its sick.

  • Jason Bartlett

    What a bunch of assholes.

  • Karl Glazebrook

    Awful! Solution is to not use this iPad for anything else and regard it as a dedicated device for her communication. Buying a second one is still cheaper than the alternative.

    Make sure to (1) back it up to a computer and (2) disable all networking/updates etc.
  • zviivz

    No wonder healthcare in this country is super expensive. Companies like these charged obscene amount of money to take advantage of unfortunate ones. 

  • Sigurd Bøe

    Jailbreak and remove remote wipe.

    It can be done within the settings of SBSettings

  • joewaylo

    PRC are a bunch of crooks and assholes. To help a child with disabilities costs $5000, then to sue someone who makes a better solution for $300 and force Apple to yank it, is wrong.

    I think they made up that patent number too. 100 Patents? The most I’ve seen in Apple VS the world lawsuits were around 10 or 20. That’s a ridiculous number of patents.

  • TheKnightWhoSaysNi
    I see two interim solutions:
    a) Sell the app in Cydia (customers will have to Jailbreak)
    b) Customers can get a developer account for $100 and can then load the app directly into their iPad.
    But the real solution is to fix our broken patent system.
  • OmicronFlyer

    This story is very poorly written!  There are many issues with this article… Let’s start at the top:

    The article’s title feeds into the sensationalism of Apple’s popularity.  The article could have been better titled by saying something like, “PRC forces Apple to remove app that helps 3-year old communicate from App Store.” 

    We aren’t informed until the 6th paragraph that a lawsuit is even involved!  This is an important detail to this story.  Shouldn’t it stand to reason that the foundation upon which this story relies is this lawsuit?  That 6th paragraph starts with, “The lawsuit involves…”   Wait…what lawsuit?  There’s no mention of it prior to this!

    In that same 6th paragraph, “pahtologists” should actually be spelled “pathologists.” 

    Is this article reporting something, or is it an opinion piece?  It reads like a report (albeit a poor one).  The statements, “I don’t know about you…” and “I know how I’d feel” do not belong in a report. 

    For an article posted on a website claiming to be centered around the “cult of mac,” this article is poorly written and unfairly slanted.

    These are all reasons that people stop reading sites like this one.  That translates to lost ad revenue, traffic to the site, and the myriad important things to a blog such as this.

    Go back to journalism school, Rob.

  • JDonofrio

    I work at Prenke Romich, and wanted to reiterate our position with regard to pursuing the legal case against the “Speak for Yourself” (SFY) founders. We discovered numerous instances in which the SFY app infringes on patents for the Unity™ system. Unity powers our devices and helps thousands of children and adults with communication-related disabilities achieve the best possible outcomes. Those patents are in place to protect decades of hard work and research. To take someone’s life work and market it as your own is simply wrong. 
     
    Apple, like most companies, respects intellectual property rights and has a process that allows third parties to notify them of infringement concerns. We notified Apple of the patent infringements and, as a result, they removed the app from the iTunes™ store. However, we have not made and will not make any effort to remove the app from the devices of those who have already purchased it.  We recognize that there are many other language assistance apps available, but we have only taken legal action against SFY. In fact, in our company’s long history, this is the only time we have ever filed a lawsuit. Before taking legal action, we reached out to SFY’s founders and offered a variety of business solutions, but were refused.

  • Ehamb

    As a father of a 3 year old nonverbal son this is how I see it.  Does Speak for Yourself infringe on PRC patents?  I don’t know.  The court will decide in the future.  What I do know is that right now at PRC’s request Apple has pulled the app that my son and many more use to communicate.  The employee from PRC may believe Speak for Yourself infringes on the patents but they have no ruling stating that.  PRC’s slogan is We believe everyone deserves a voice.  I think they should add unless you are using Speak for Yourself to speak.  

    They may say they would never try and remove the app from anyone who has already purchased it.  That is great and I’m glad to hear it.  Others have commented that just don’t update the iPad and keep the app backed up.  That is exactly what I plan on doing.  But what happens after iOS 6 is released and my son or Maya break their iPads.  They are both young.  Well if I go to Apple or Best Buy to buy a new one guess what it will already have the latest iOS with no guarentee my existing app will work.
    Why not wait until the court case is done.  Surely with something as important as this that is not to much to ask.  Or maybe PRC is not sure they will win and are just trying to get Speak for Yourself off the market long enough to develop their on app.  I hope not but with the action they are taking it seems to me they care less about the people that need the app or communication device and more about protecting their income. 
  • technochick
    Awful! Solution is to not use this iPad for anything else and regard it as a dedicated device for her communication. Buying a second one is still cheaper than the alternative.

    The point isn’t the iPad. It’s the app and the fact that Apple’s developer rules state that as the developer you are required to get all appropriate IP permissions and someone is claiming they didn’t. By the rules, if Apple receives a complaint they can (and typically will) yank the app until the issue is settled and the developer has proof they cleared things up. 

  • technochick

    PRC are a bunch of crooks and assholes. To help a child with disabilities costs $5000, then to sue someone who makes a better solution for $300 and force Apple to yank it, is wrong.

    I think they made up that patent number too. 100 Patents? The most I’ve seen in Apple VS the world lawsuits were around 10 or 20. That’s a ridiculous number of patents.

    It might suck the sweat off monkey balls that the insurance companies went years only covering devices created for this kind of use and only that, which enabled such high pricing and such. But it doesn’t negate that this company could have a valid IP claim and has a right to defend that claim. 

    And while you’re griping about PRC etc taking advantage of folks, what about charging $300 for your app. Sounds a bit greedy to me. 
  • ApplePr0n

    Oh boy, this is such a gray area-touchy subject. Legally, if they infringe patents then it should be taken off, but at other side, it has a great cause. I wish these companies could settle this behind closed doors without the need to strip those of the ability to use the app without another option

About the author

Rob LeFebvreAnchorage, Alaska-based freelance writer and editor Rob LeFebvre is Cult of Mac's Games and Tips Editor. He has contributed to various tech, gaming and iOS sites, including 148Apps, VentureBeat, and Paste Magazine. Feel free to find Rob on Twitter @roblef

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