Last month that threat was heightened when PRC/SCS requested that Apple remove the Speak for Yourself app from the iTunes store, and Apple complied with that request (despite the fact that PRC/SCS never asked the court for an injunction to halt the sales of the app—a move that would have allowed for due process and the decision of an impartial judge). I wrote about the take-down and its potentially grave implications for Maya and the other users of the app, which can be seen here (and press from that post is here). Here’s a quote from that post, explaining our fear and frustration:
Since that post, the parties have addressed the take-down of the app in court. At this point the judge presiding over this case has heard PRC/SCS claim that this app is infringing, it should be taken down, and taking it down isn’t irreparably hurting anyone. He has also heard SFY claim that this app is not infringing, taking it down is destroying their business, and it should be reinstated.
You know who he hasn’t heard from?
The people in this case who have the most at stake---the users of the Speak for Yourself app.
This morning the court was informed that three users of the Speak for Yourself app intend to file a motion to intervene in this case. My daughter, Maya, and two other children, Robert Hambright and Schuyler Rummel-Hudson, are seeking to make the court aware that this case is not simply a business issue. They need the judge to understand that the decisions made in this case about the future of this app will seriously impact a group of people who are currently not represented in the case.
The motion to intervene is not an act of siding with either party in the case. We are not offering any opinion as to whether Speak for Yourself is infringing on the patents of PRC/SCS, as we know very little of patents and that issue is best decided by the court. Truly, that is not the important issue to Maya, Robert, Schuyler, and the other users of this app. What matters to them is that their use of the app is not jeopardized, regardless of where the profits are going. It’s crucial that the court is able to hear, understand, and take into account the (previously) silent victims in this case---the users who rely on this app to communicate. The judge’s decision in this case will affect three businesses, but more importantly it will affect the communication abilities of many nonverbal children and adults.
Without filing a motion to intervene, the abilities of Maya , Robert, and Schuyler to communicate run the risk of being terminated without the court ever even becoming aware that they were on the line in the first place. Our kids will not sit idly by and watch their voices become collateral damage, inadvertent casualties to a corporate patent dispute. They have a right to protect their interest in this case, and the time to step up and do so is now.
Earlier this week the parties in the lawsuit filed briefs that centered around the idea of irreparable harm. The brief from SFY asserts that the take-down of their app from the iTunes store is causing irreparable harm to their business, both through monetary loss and critical damage to their reputation, and therefore the app should be reinstated. The brief from PRC/SCS states that SFY is failing to show irreparable harm, and therefore the app should remain out of the iTunes store. If I were an independent observer with nothing at stake in this case, watching these companies argue about whether irreparable harm is being caused by this take-down would actually be almost comical, as neither brief actually acknowledges the glaring, indisputable irreparable harm at the heart of the issue—the damage to the users of this app.
If Speak for Yourself ceases to function when the iPad’s operating system is updated this fall, and Maya and Robert are suddenly left unable to communicate . . . that will be irreparable harm.
The panic, confusion, frustration, and sadness of these children as they tap their touchscreens, trying to open their “talkers,” and are met with blank screens . . . that will be irreparable harm.
When Maya wants to call Parker (her dog), but is unable to use the loud voice of her iPad, and so she just sits alone whispering “Pa! Pa! Pa!” futilely trying to say it loudly enough for the dog to hear her . . . that will be irreparable harm.
Each day that Maya and Robert will have to wait, silent again, while our families search for some alternate communication system . . . that will be irreparable harm. It’s worth noting that both of our families have used other top-rated systems in the past (including the Proloquo2Go app and the Vantage Lite device made by PRC) and we have deemed these systems to be inferior to the Speak for Yourself app with regards to meeting the needs of our children. This means that Maya and Robert would be left using some sort of system that does not allow them to communicate with the ease and understanding that they currently have with SFY. Again, irreparable harm.
Unlike Maya & Robert, Schuyler is old enough to truly advocate for herself. At her last IEP meeting she informed her team that she wanted to use the iPad rather than her speech device, in part because she could use it for school work as well as speech, but also because it didn't immediately point her out as a kid who can't speak. Schuyler specifically chose SfY as the app that she feels most comfortable using to communicate. If the app ceases to work, she will either be limited to choosing an app that doesn’t allow her to communicate with the same speed and efficacy, or she will be relegated into using a communication device that brings with it a social stigma over which she has already expressed concern . . . irreparable harm.
The time has come to make sure that these kids are heard, to move their stories from the court of public opinion into the court of law. Personally, I’ve spent months considering this move. Having had no experience with the legal system, the idea of court and filings and motions and briefs . . . it made me uncomfortable, anxious. In the end, Maya’s right to a voice clearly outweighs my anti-litigious nature, and so we move together and stand behind her right to protect her interests in this case, to make her story heard.
To speak for herself.
- The letter informing the court of Maya, Robert & Schuyler's intention to intervene
- The brief filed by SfY on Monday
- The brief filed by PRC/SCS on Monday