One day independent developer Anton Sinelnikov had 68 iOS apps available on the iTunes App Store. The next, only 9 remained, thanks to Apple removing many of his games for being blatant copies of successful titles. Among the removed games are apps such as Plant vs. Zombie, Angry Ninja Birds, and Temple Jump, each of which had more than a little in common with with major titles such as Plants vs. Zombies, Angry Birds, and Temple Run. Temple Jump, in particular, had been a success, reaching the top of the paid app sales chart.
Imangi (developer of Temple Run) co-founder Natalia Luckyanova stated “The app was clearly a scam that traded entirely on the popularity of Temple Run and was packaged to confuse users.” Many people thought the knockoff was a legitimate sequel or tie-in to the original. “This was really upsetting to us and damaging to our brand, because we work really hard to put out very high quality polished games and win the love of our fans, and we don’t want them to think that we would put out crap to steal a dollar from them,” Luckyanova said.
Last week, Apple revealed that third-party app developers have earned a total of $4 billion dollars through the Mac and iOS app stores so far, but recently there have been a number of alleged copycat scenarios in the mobile space. Over the past few days, social gaming giant Zynga has been accused of copying two iOS apps, and Spry Fox has sued publisher 6waves Lolapps for supposedly lifting ideas from the match-three puzzle game Triple Town. Blog TechCrunch explained that Apple’s iTunes App Store has a few systems in place to police the numerous available apps, but beyond submitting reviews and reporting bugs or offensive content, iOS users have no direct way to flag titles that mimic existing apps. Apple’s purge of Sinelnikov’s games is one of the rare occasions where a platform holder has stepped in to police the situation itself.
“I don’t think there’s a perfect solution, because you need human judgement involved in the system. The platform holder can’t realistically police copyright violations, or just misleading apps. As developers, we sign an agreement saying that we have obtained all the IP permissions necessary for our work, so that responsibility is on the developer,” Luckyanova said. “I guess I don’t have a solution, because I wouldn’t want reviews to be even more strictly policed. The good thing is that most stores have a way to appeal the process if something does slip through the cracks.”