Monday, June 11, 2012

The Silencing of Maya

(Edited on 6/19/12 to add: A petition is now up on asking that Speak for Yourself be returned to the App Store immediately and allowed to remain there throughout litigation and regardless of the lawsuit results. Business disputes should have business resolutions, and those who need this app to communicate should be assured that they will not lose it. If you agree, please sign and share like crazy. Thanks!)

Eleven weeks ago I wrote about a lawsuit that posed a threat to my daughter’s voice.  Maya, who is four years old and unable to speak, uses an app called Speak for Yourself (SfY) to communicate, and the creators of SfY were being sued for patent infringement by Prentke Romich Company (PRC) and Semantic Compaction Systems (SCS), two much larger companies that make designated communication devices (not iPad apps).  You can read the original post here, and see the numerous news articles that were spurred by this case here.  Maya was poised to become a very real, very human, and very adorable casualty of patent law.

After that blog post, two big things happened. First, I learned a tiny bit about patent law, most notably that while in the worst case scenario (for us, a verdict again Speak for Yourself) the judge could shut down the app, it was also quite possible that PRC/SCS would only be awarded monetary damages.  I was able to relax a little and lose some of the terror that SfY (which Maya was already relying on) would be suddenly yanked away or disappear.  The second, and far more exciting development, is that Maya’s progress in using the app to communicate has been staggering. In my original post I imagined a future in which I could hear Maya “speak” in phrases and share her thoughts . . . now, only weeks later, we are living that future.  She politely makes requests, tapping out “I want cookie please.” She makes jokes, like looking out the window at the bright sunshine and tapping “today rain” and laughing (what can I say, 4 year olds don’t tell the best jokes).  And two days ago she looked at my husband as he walked by and tapped “Daddy, I love you.”

Life-changing.  Seriously. 

Maya can speak to us, clearly, for the first time in her life.  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.  I’ve been so busy embracing this new reality and celebrating that I kind of forgot that there was an ongoing lawsuit.

Until last Monday.  When Speak for Yourself was removed from the iTunes store. 

It disappeared.  It no longer exists.


According to this court document, here’s how this happened: PRC/SCS contacted Apple and requested that Speak for Yourself be removed from the iTunes store, claiming that it infringes on their patents.  In turn, Apple contacted SfY and requested their response to these claims.  The lawyer for SfY responded, explaining to Apple exactly why the infringement claims are unfounded, referring Apple to the current open court case, and pointing out that PRC/SCS had not asked the court for an injunction ordering the app to be removed from the store.  For months, nothing happened . . . and then on June 4th Apple notified SfY that the app had been removed, due to the fact that the dispute with PRC/SCS had not been resolved.

So now what will happen to Maya’s voice?

At the moment, we still have the app, securely loaded into her iPad and present in my iTunes account, and Maya remains blissfully unaware that anything has changed.   Dave and I, however, know better.  We are now shadowed by a huge, impending threat.  With the removal of Speak for Yourself from the iTunes store, the SfY team has lost the ability to send out updates or repairs to the people who are currently using the app.  At this point, an update from Apple to the iPad's operating system (which gets updated semi-regularly) could render SfY useless (because if the new operating system was to be incompatible with the code for SfY, there would be no way for the team to reconfigure the app to make it compatible with the new OS and send out the updated version).  Our app could stop working, and Maya would be left unable to speak, and no one would be able to help us.

And there’s another threat, too, perhaps a more sinister one.  What would happen if PRC/SCS contacted Apple and asked them to remotely delete the copies of Speak for Yourself that were already purchased, citing that the app was (allegedly) illegally infringing upon their patents, and stating that they wanted it entirely removed from existence?  Prior to last week, I would have (naively) thought that such an aggressive move, harmful to hundreds of innocent nonverbal children, would have been unfathomable.  Now, it appears to be a real concern.  Prior to last week I would have (naively) thought that even if such a request was made, Apple would never comply without a court injunction forcing them to do so.  Now, it appears that they very well might.

The removal of Speak for Yourself from iTunes doesn’t seem fair.  It actually seems pretty exactly unfair.  And frankly, it’s beyond my understanding.  I’m not a legal person, and there are two legal-ish things about this turn of events that I simply do not understand.

First, I don’t understand why PRC/SCS would go to Apple to request the removal of the app from the app store.  There is already communication between PRC and SfY through the court.  Why wasn’t an injunction filed in the court to halt sales of the app?  That would have allowed for due process, and for the impartial judge to decide whether the removal was justified.

Second, I don’t understand why Apple decided to remove the app.  They received communication from a lawyer, explaining that the claims of infringement were invalid and that the court had not ordered the removal of the app from the iTunes store.  This app is not a game, it’s a necessary, irreplaceable voice for people with disabilities. Why would Apple decide to pull it so arbitrarily?

To get a little less impartial, I also don’t understand how Prentke Romich could think that this was a reasonable, or ethical, move to make.  PRC is a 46 year old company whose entire client population is comprised of children and adults who are unable to speak.   Their motto (prominently displayed atop their Facebook page) is “We Believe Everyone Deserves A Voice.”  How can they reconcile their mission statement with their strategic removal of Speak for Yourself from the market, effectively blocking access to new nonverbal users and potentially causing the removal of the app from the current users who are using it as their only voice?

My daughter cannot speak without this app.

She cannot ask us questions.  She cannot tell us that she’s tired, or that she wants yogurt for lunch. She cannot tell her daddy that she loves him.

No one should have the power to take this away from her. 

What would happen if we lost SfY? I have no idea. As I’ve explained before, we have tried other communication apps and didn’t find any that were a good match for Maya.  Interestingly, we also carefully considered purchasing a communication device from PRC, and met with one of their representatives in November, nine weeks before a post on my Facebook wall introduced me to SfY (and seven weeks before it even existed in the iTunes store).  We examined PRC’s devices and were disappointed to see that they weren’t a good fit for Maya.  For us, this wasn’t an issue of an expensive device versus a “cheap” app.  This was an issue of an ineffective device (for Maya) versus an app that she understood and embraced immediately.  The only app, the only system, that she immediately adopted as her own way of communicating.

This app is her only voice. 

The fact that my daughter’s ability to speak is becoming a casualty of a patent battle between two businesses is beyond my comprehension.  This is a patent issue, a monetary issue, a legal issue, a business issue.  This should be handled in a business vs. business way, within the court system.  PRC’s decision to fight for the removal of this app from the iTunes store isn’t just an aggressive move against Speak for Yourself, it’s an attack on my child, the other children using this app, and the children who are ready to begin using this app but now cannot.

Maya, talking to me after school

If you would like to lend your voice to this fight, spread this story.  This is not ok, and people should know about it.  If you are compelled to voice your opinion, here are some places that may interest you:

If you would like more information:

Edited on 6/13/12 to add:  Author's Note: I have added a new post answering some of the frequently asked questions spurred by this post.  That post can be seen here.

Edited on 6/14/12 to add: A petition is now up on asking that Speak for Yourself be returned to the App Store immediately and allowed to remain there throughout litigation and regardless of the lawsuit results. Business disputes should have business resolutions, and those who need this app to communicate should be assured that they will not lose it. If you agree, please sign and share. Thanks! 




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Liz said...


I don't know much about how Ipads work, but if you used Maya's Ipad as an offline tool, would Apple be able to break in to delete it?


Roberta said...

This is absolutely unconscionable. I hope to God that people read this and comprehend how devastating this could be, if pulled from Maya, and other children who rely on this as their (near) sole means of communication. I will share this info profusely! I wish you the best in your endeavors to keep this app alive!

Marla said...

Android/Google Play has far laxer rules for apps, as far as I understand it. I wonder if SFY could retool their app for Android (not an easy undertaking, to say the least!). There are Android tablets that are really inexpensive, so that would even make the app more accessible to more families. I hope this issue can be resolved and that Maya can continue to use her new voice, because your story breaks my heart.

Kerith Stull said...

I feel your anger. I am quite confident that those sueing do not realize the impact this could have on kids and their families. I pray it never becomes a "living" issue for Maya. My 16 year old daughter cannot speak due to cerebral palsy from CMV (cytomegalovirus)even though her hearing is intact. Although we use sign language (Signed Exact English) at home exclusively, she uses a different app (SpeakIt)that works great to bridge the commuication gap when I am not with her.

Annie said...

Ugh. This makes me sick! One suggestion. The videos of my using SfY are so powerful. Maybe add some new ones to this post. I'm so sorry. Keep you I-pad's wireless off so at least it can't be deleted and consider this I-pad a device only for SfY (maybe you do that already).

Chicory Blue said...

This isn't the same scale but it shows that is really just about big company wanting full control of the little guys....
Mattel (the toy co) sued Super Duper Publications (a speech therapy catalog-smallish family run company) because their products (decks of cards called Speak and Say) sounded too much like their toy the See and Say.
A deck of CARDS versus the TOY that you pull and it makes farm animal noises.
Mattel also won. Big lawyers and money.

Anonymous said...

I can help answer your two questions:

1. They requested the app be removed to apply pressure to SfY and encourage a settlement. Most of these cases end in a license agreement, so the parties will take actions to position themselves to negotiate a better royalty agreement.

2. Apple removed the app because they could be liable under a doctrine called "indirect infringement."

Dana said...

Thanks Anonymous---while I somewhat understand those points, I still disagree. I would think that with an open court case Apple could easily wait for an injunction, and that if they complied with an injunction immediately (which I'm sure they would) any claims against them would be minor (if at all applicable). I think Apple's position is not to get involved in battles between third parties---but in taking the app down, instead of maintaining the status quo, they seem to have chosen a side. (But again, I'm not a law person. What do I know?)

This would be less shocking if the plantiff wasn't a company that has based their business on the assertion that everyone deserves a voice. The consequence of kids like Maya losing hers if they chose this course of action could not have gone unnoticed by PRC, and yet they chose to proceed.

laurelsmom said...

I understand those points as well Anonymous. I actually work in mediation. But for a company, whose mission statement is that everyone deserves a voice, to play hardball with a child's literal voice only to gain leverage reveals their true motivation is profit.
Dana - I wish this werent happening. We just won the SFY app and I have been tweaking it and hoping to introduce it to Laurel in the coming weeks. Maya's progress inspires me to work harder. I was hopeful this would work for us too. No company should be able to take away someone's hope.

Anonymous said...

Just remember that patent protection goes both ways. If companies can't protect their products, then others will be able to undercut their ability to make a profit by selling less expensive copies or derivative products. These companies have development costs and salaries to pay. Patent protection isn't perfect, but without it such products wouldn't be as aggressively developed. I hope this case settles quickly so that developers and users can get on with their business and lives. It sounds like both companies make useful and beneficial products that serve different users.

David Gerard said...

Software patents are literally just evil. I'm spreading this as far and wide as possible.

Resuna said...

Dear Anonymous:

What cases can you cite that support your interpretation of the way software patents actually work?

Phil said...

One cute little lady. I hope it all works out.

Teacher Kevin said...

It doesn't solve most of the problems, but you CAN back up that app file. I dont' think Apple has ever remotely deleted apps on people's devices (especially if you paid for it) However Amazon once remotely deleted 1984 (of all things) from people's Kindles, so it's not outside the realm of possibility.

Anyways, find the app in itunes and right-click on it. This will bring up a menu. There will be an option to "reveal in Finder" (Mac) or "Reveal in Windows Explorer" (Windows). Pick that, and it will open up the folder that contains the app files, with the app you want highlighted. Copy and paste that .app file into as many safe backup folders as you want.

Now, even if they take the unlikely step of remotely deleting it, you can just put it right back on there.

Also, should you upgrade to iOS6 and cripple this app, you should be able to downgrade again, there are a few tutorials for doing this.

Finally, I'm sure it'll turn up on the jailbreak market, that's usually where banned apps end up. You might even get updates that way.

Joseph Larson said...

The value of this SfY app is high enough to you that you should simply turn off all connectivity to it (assuming it functions while offline), and not bother with updates, use the iPad just for this app. Get yourself another iPad for regular use. I bet you could fund raise funds for that in a heartbeat via this blog.

If you have this device disconnected from the web and use it only for this app, then there is no risk at all in skipping updates.

Ann said...

Prentke would not even get a salesperson to me, or my son's therapist, when I wanted to check out devices by them. I use something else on my son's ipad, but if ANYTHING happened to it, it would be like sewing his mouth shut. It's awful.

Larry said...

1. Apple can not connect to the iPad and remove the app, the worst that could happen is it would not be updated again
2. Apple normaly will pull an app from the app store for an issue like this, it dosen't change that you have it, it only prevents others from buying it and most lilky buying another AAC app
3. the lawsuit won't affect you except you won't be able to get updates, so if the app works as you need it now you will be ok.

António said...

"the lawsuit won't affect you except you won't be able to get updates"

What if the iPad where the app is installed breaks and is not repairable?

"if the app works as you need it now you will be ok."

Larry, did you skip the OS update issue? An update could inadvertently affect SfY due to a change on something SfY happens to rely on to work the way it currently does. Whithout updates for the app, there is no way to addapt to such a change, and the functionality of the app would be compromissed.

Not updating the operative system would prevent that, but missing out the security fixes is undesirable because it leaves the device vunerable.

ArneBab said...

Sadly even if we manage to win this one battle, on the long run you are bound to lose as long as SfY is proprietary code. If the company behind it should go out of business, Maya would lose her voice again. Especially in locked-down environments like the iPad.

I’m sorry that I cannot provide much encouragement there. Any proprietary software is only a loan you cannot trust in. It never really belongs to you, as the source code, which is its heart, is controlled by someone else.

The sole chance I see for you to really secure your daughters newfound voice is to get some free software hackers to combine a free text-to-speech engine like festival with an interface which follows the SfY style. That would give you a program which you can trust to stay available.

ArneBab said...

PS: Spreading this story as far as I can to at least help in the short term.

Tess said...

Hi Dana,
I am following this case with great interest, and huge amounts of hope that SfY will be restored. I have just emailed Apple the letter below and encourage everyone else in the disability community to do the same. We are not SfY users, as our son can talk, but the social justice issue here is so important that we need to stick together on this one don't we!

Dear Apple,
I am following the Speak for Yourself patent case with great interest. I am a researcher in the field of early literacy as it applies to children with disabilities.

Now, I am no lawyer or patent expert, but a quick review of the court documents are enough for me to understand that Apple has chosen to remove this app from the app store and that it has not been ordered by any court to do so.

I urge you to reconsider this course of action. The complainants in this case are due their day in court and the outcome of that case may lead to some changes, none of which need to be the removal of this valuable resource from families of nonverbal people. Do your job Apple store, continue to sell the app and let the courts worry about everything else.

The disability community has embraced both the iPod touch and the iPad for a multitude of reasons, Speak for Yourself is only one of the many benefits these devices can deliver to people with disabilities. However, the disability community is expansive and supportive of one another. I would hope that Apple’s interest in this case remains focussed on the needs of the disability community above all others.


Steve said...

I sent the following to both Apple and Prentke Romich. They need to realize that some things are more important than intellectualy property law.

To: Prentke Romich Company
Cc: Apple Corporation

I think my tweet says it all, really.

Despicable. You have just made a lot of powerful enemies, and would do well to consider your next actions carefully. These things can really hurt your balance sheet. I've taken the time to mail you, but of course word is already spreading across social media by the second.

Apple, why did you respond to a request to take this app down when there was no legal requirement to do so? A blunder, surely?

Is there no solution to this dispute that will not leave children rendered cruelly mute?


SHF said...

Well, I don't know what's going to happen with SFY, *but* I have a bunch of apps that were taken down by Apple, including VLC and the fully-working DosBox app.

Despite being removed, they still work and sync perfectly after more than two years, two MacBook changes, a country change, e-mail changes and three different iPad versions. I just keep the files that iTunes downloaded on an external HD and I can put the app back into the iPad. Plus I'm always online, there has been no certificate revoking or anything.

If you're really worried, just disconnect the iPad from wi-fi/3G, and get a spare one, install the App... the devices will probably last longer than the iPad brand itself, who knows...

Anonymous said...

It is unfortunate that this is happening to you and your daughter.

The bottom line people can not forget is corporations are money making enterprises. Corporations don't have feelings or a belief in right and wrong. Under the cover of anonymity people do things in the name of a corporation that they would never do if they had to sign their name to it.

Allaun said...

It's near criminal what is happening and I do sympathize with what is happening. Have you contacted the company about how would feel if you jailbreak your ipad and back up the program? No one seems to have mentioned that. Or a more practical solution would be to talk to them about re-licensing their code under a more permissive license and then offering it as SaS? (Software as a Service) Like offering phone support, interaction with the devs, etc? If your unfamilar with OSI (Open Source Initiative), You can check it out here. I understand you have no power over the source code or what the company ultimately decides. But if the source code is out there to be used, To be modified, It's nearly impossible for it to disappear from the internet. And as far as jailbreaking your ipad, It is legal. The grey area is backing up the files to be ported to another device. That's why I recommend discussing it with the company first. They can't stop you, But it would be a nice thing to do. And another question I have is if they decide they prefer their current license, Is there any developers that could create a function "look-alike) program in case things go horrifically bad for their company? I am not familiar with your daughter or her needs, But if there is a way to start a comunity to port some of the assets to a new code-base, it would be best to do it sooner rather than later. If nothing else, as a way to allow your daughter to adjust to something else?

Anonymous said...

I hope this gets resolved quickly. Here is another avenue that you might want to explore in order to put a little bit of unified pressure on those involved:

Anonymous said...

Take screenshots of the app, document why it does, and we can build it from scratch and give you instructions on
How to build the clone and deploy it, without requiring Apple's approval.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, this is yet another case of how terrible the patent system is, and how badly it can affect real people. Please setup a donation link, turn off the wifi on your daughter's iPad, and buy a new one or something else with the proceeds.

You will be able to save your daughters voice without the threat of anyone taking it away. (the only thing that could at this point would be hardware failure)

Anonymous said...

I'm not a patent lawyer or patent expert... but it certainly does look like PRC has a legitimate case against SfY that is legitimately making its way through the courts that are the only dispute-resolution system going at the moment (and, while far far FAR from being a perfect system for resolving such disputes, I'm with Winston Churchill in that bad as the court system may be, the courts are less bad than the alternative, ie no patent protection whatsoever).

It is unfortunate that SfY may well be unavailable until this dispute is resolved. It'll suck for your daughter, no question. But PRC developed and patented the LAMP system that powers SfY, and PRC is entitled to take the steps necessary to protect their investment (which includes having SfY pulled from the app store until this mess gets worked out).

My heart goes out to you and your adorable daughter Maya -it'll be awful if her voice is silenced, no question. But PRC is entitled to try to protect their investment (LAMP that SfY allegedly has illegally appropriated)... and your daughter is unfortunately (but NOT inappropriately) entitled to use SfY until this mess gets worked out.

You cannot possibly believe that PRC is morally (or legally or otherwise) obligated to "give everybody a voice" for free. And if it wasn't your kid's communication device of choice, you likely wouldn't be nearly so upset about it.

PS You're a smart lady and knew damn straight (and acknowledged this on your blog) that PRC appeared to have a pretty good case against SfY nearly three months ago... and chose not to think about what would happen if SfY was pulled from the market. This is NOT a surprise out of nowhere. Perhaps you should have considered a "plan b" communication system in case what's actually happened came to pass?? Given that Maya is 4 yrs old, she's not in a position to "un-silence" herself when SfY became unavailable. However, YOU as her smart, devoted mommy should be able to... which might be a more productive use of your time in the short term (vs railing against the perceived unfairness of a company taking legitimate steps to protect its investments!!!)

Dana said...

"You're a smart lady and knew damn straight (and acknowledged this on your blog) that PRC appeared to have a pretty good case against SfY nearly three months ago... and chose not to think about what would happen if SfY was pulled from the market."

This is untrue. Actually, I've always asserted that I am not going to get into the actual merits of the patent case, because that is not my primary concern. Personally, I do not believe their is infringment---but I'm smart enough to know my limitations as someone who's never read patents prior to March. I think the court will decide better than I could.

"This is NOT a surprise out of nowhere."

Perhaps not "out of nowhere", but yes, certainly a surprise. This was my paranoid worst-case fear, but seemed like an impossible step to anticipate from what I believed to be a company that had a strong foundation of goodwill and compassion (seriously, I thought that. I'm not being sarcastic.).

"Perhaps you should have considered a "plan b" communication system in case what's actually happened came to pass??"

Perhaps you are not a regular reader here and missed the fact that for many, many months I researched apps and devices before finding this one. It's very difficult to understand the specifics of these language systems without using them regularly, but this is a unique, ideal app for us. I have taken all of the steps that I can (disconnecting wireless, backing up the app, etc) to protect this tool. Simply switching to another app or device is not really an option for her.

"However, YOU as her smart, devoted mommy should be able to... which might be a more productive use of your time in the short term (vs railing against the perceived unfairness of a company taking legitimate steps to protect its investments!!!)"

Thank you so much for your advice. Very helpful.

Michael said...

There are lots of Android tablets out there and it is possible to install any app on an Android tablet even if it is not distributed in the official App Store. The solution is to make apps like this as 100% open source code and make them freely available on all devices.

Step 1. Make an Android app.
Step 2. Port it to Windows Mobile
Step 3. Port it to Blackberry
Step 4. Port it to Appple's iOS.
Step 5. Sue Apple to force them to distribute this free app on their App Store.

You are a pioneer, one of the first to step onto the wild open prairie and you have discovered that there are also marauding outlaws, wild animals, Indians, and other dangers. Like a pioneer you need to band together with others to tame the wild prairie for future generations.

Unknown said...

I hate to be the bearer of expensive news, but if you want to be certain that your daughter can continue to use that program, you need to disable the wireless networking (and/or 3g or whatever) on your ipad so that it can no longer receive updates. If you want to make sure your daughter retains the ability to communicate, that seems to me that it would be worth the cost of an ipad.

Dana said...

Liz, Bart, & others who have mentioned taking specific steps to protect the app in the iPad:

We have 2 iPads, one that is a designated talker and one that has been used for many things (and also carries a copy of Speak for Yourself).

I have disabled wireless connectivity on both iPads and copied the app file (I think?) onto 2 back-up hard drives.

The problem with this "solution" is that when the primary user of the device is a 4 yr old, I wonder how long 2 iPads will last (hopefully quite some time, but who knows).

That's all that I can think of to do. Honestly, I'm not fully sure why I even backed up the file, because I wouldn't know what to do with it anyway, but since the tech crowd is telling me to copy it I did. If there are other protective steps that I could take, please don't hesitate to let me know.

Travis Jensen said...

Things I would do:

1. Jailbreak the iPad and shut off Apple's kill switch. While it is highly unlikely Apple would use it here (they never have for similar issues), this is too important.

2. Don't upgrade iOS until you have a reasonable solution so the current app doesn't break. Better to be without iOS gadgets than Maya's voice.

3. Contact the app producer and ask them if they would be willing to share the source code with you, in case of the worst. Tell them you'll sign any NDA or non-compete they want. You just want to be able to recompile and redeploy if things go drastically wrong for them. Apple can't stop you from deploying an app you compile to your device (especially if you are jail broken).

I can't imagine what you must be going through. Hopefully this will get enough bad press for the entrenched encumbrances that they have to relent.

Duncan Bayne said...


Firstly, I'm really sorry to hear about this. It must be devastating to have your daughter's voice threatened in this way.

I encourage you (& others) reading about this to think of the problem not as "Apple has removed the app" but "this device that I own is utterly controlled by a third party."

A general purpose computer (such as a PC running OSX, Windows or Linux) doesn't have this problem. You own the device, and you can choose what software to run on it.

'Consumer' devices like iPads and iPhones essentially belong to the manufacturer. They control what software runs on it, and can (and do) change their rules at any time.

While a short term fix would be to get Apple to remove the app, the only realistic long term fix is to abandon platforms like iOS for more open alternatives (like Android, Linux or dare I say it Windows) that give you control over the device you own.

The real problem here could be summed up as "my daughter's voice reliant upon a device that's controlled by a faceless corporation."

Anonymous said...

Worse case Scenario....You can always use a MAC to or Iphone to communicate All Apple computers have a speaking component to their texts....

Alok said...

I am not in a position to tell if this particular patent lawsuit is without merit or not. But I definitely think that frivolous and obvious patenting is a real issue.

But also I do not think that one persons need justifies another persons time or effort. I sympathize with your daughter and family, but surely that does not entitle you and obligate another person.

Anonymous said...

Blame Apple. It's that simple.

I've been watching the never ending stream of horror stories streaming out from inside the walled garden for years now, and an even longer stream of consumers lining up to spend huge money buying into the walled garden.

People really are their own worst enemy.

When people wake up and vote with their wallet, only then will Apple's hyper restrictive policies relax.

You don't own your Apple device. It owns you. And you pay a premium for that privilege.

Anonymous said...

I realise this might sound harsh - but adapt to it. Sfy should create an app on another platform, there are alternatives to communist apple... like the android. Instead of crying that you don't want to change, adapt to suit the world you live in. No company owes you anything.

Maya said...

I think someone else mentioned this above, but have you considered creating a petition? That should spread like wildfire through social media and would be a concrete thing to take to Apple. People are more likely to sign their name to that than take time to email Apple directly. Please let us know if you create one!

Anonymous said...

What about reading/writing? Why doesn't Maya learn to write her thoughts/ideas? Why not learn to type them?

Anonymous said...

You have two problems:
Patent law

I'm sure you can get an Android tablet with similar software on it where you can backup the software, down or upgrade to whichever OS version you want.

Apple software controls you.
You need a device/OS where you are in control.

Amar Patel said...

I am sorry that your daughter, husband, and yourself that to go through this. Apple has lost some points in my book for this move. 'Think different' my ass, this is downright hypocrisy if you ask me.

Anyways, there is a really helpful thread about your situation on Hacker News, a site full of people who could help you find a solution for Maya.

Your daughter is beautiful. Maya means 'the illusion of separateness' in Sanskrit, which I believe means that we are all in this together.


Albert said...

There is quite a bit of misinformation and astroturfing going on in the comments, unfortunately.

Once you have the app in your iTunes library, it stays there until you delete it. Or the computer goes kaput, and then you've probably lost all your files. The app is tied to your iTunes account, not your iPad. You can change or update your iPads and still load up that app, as long as that iPad is authorized to your account. No need to jailbreak or turn off connectivity.

Apple has never pulled their kill switch that people are spreading fear about. They've pulled apps from the store, but not from people's devices or computers.

Google, though, has pulled that trigger. Granted, it was on malware, but killed all the same.

And what ridiculous advice to absolutely violate IP by creating a knockoff Version of software under dispute. How is that any kind of reasonable?

Lou Ann said...

Has the app been removed from your daughter's device? No? Then Bam.... she has not been silenced. She still has her app and iPad which is great. But there can be no other infringments on IP. Instead others will use different apps. This one is good because it copied an established and well researched language system.

Anonymous said...

First thing I would do is to disable internet access on the iPad to preserve it as is. Also possibly research any possible way to backup an app or the whole disk even if it evolve jailbreak or whatever other move. Then finally buy a second iPad to use as an normal iPad.

Unknown said...

Hi there. I wanted to comment here, because I was concerned. First, who I am -- I am a profoundly deaf individual who grew up unable to hear. Your daughter can be taught to express herself in a fully natural language -- sign language.

This would enable her to, at a minimum, be completely independent of technology -- to make herself be understood. I imagine as she gets older she would also have full access to writing, also.

Sign language (ASL in the U.S.) has a rich linguistic history. It is not only for deaf or hard of hearing people! I encourage you to take a step back from primacy of the spoken word and take a look at other language modalities.

barbs said...

That's so bad. A small company trying to make a difference in the world gets screwed over by the money hungry bigger players.
I kind of want to make a clone of it and release it as open source. Maybe even for Android tablets, since they're way more lenient on what gets sold on their 'App Store', and even if it gets banned, it's easy to install by other means without 'jailbreaking' the device. But then I kind of feel that I'm not giving the original creators any credit.

dino said...

Using kill switches or not is irrelevant. Bottom line, it's unacceptable that they have this control over anyone.

What's unreasonable is the existence of software patents. IP is a fiction we, through our ridiculous consumer culture, have saddled ourselves with.

A free software clone of SfY is the best option here.

Anonymous said...

Ignore all the Apple haters. This will simply be a standard Apple process which they have to have due to the huge number of apps to review. It happened to an app I developed.

I would urge you to email tis directly to Tim Cook at Apple. This improving lives from Technology was the focus of their WWDC keynote this year. I think Tim would listen and reinstate the app.

kirk said...

I agree with one poster stating that you should contact apple, both through the PR department, or through there human rights type people.

One thing i suggest is that you find a way to communicate with the "underground" group of people how 'jailbreak' apple devices. that way they can save the IPA file from her IPAD and reload it, even if apple forces a remote deletion. This isn't to say you should ever want to break copyright law, but that is also to say, you shouldn't HAVE to. As god as my witness the jail breaking community would gladly help you if need be.

god speed, best of luck.

Simon Taylor said...

Make your point by offering to pay your portion of the patents for your use of the program.

Bruce said...

I grateful for your daughter's recent access into the world of shared thoughts. I respect that you've identified your naivete in regards to how the corporate REALITY disregards the value of their dollar drive maneuvers. Liberate your family and your daughter from the archaic requirements of the OLD pre-internet business style companies. Watch this movie and consider it's ramifications: FIND AN OPEN SOURCE solution and give the corporate giants a divorce.

Anonymous said...

I have written a note to both these companies to deal with this issue with more sensitiveness.

Minspeak of SCS can be reached at

Peter said...

Have you seen the statement of PRC? They clain they want to protect the work of Bruce Baker and his company, Semantic Compaction Systems (SCS), but I feel like this is lawsuit is only to protect market share of PRC.

If Bruce Baker, SCS and PRC really think everyone deserves a voice, they would invalidate the patents, open source the technology, and make it available for free under GPL. That way it could be improved further.

This lawsuit is just about making money and monopolizing the market.

Jessie said...

This is my first time reading your blog and liked one of the comments about sign language. Are you able to all learn sign language? I liked the comment about how it would keep you from being dependent on technology.

I pray you will find a solution to this and won't be weighed down by all this stress and worry.

Anonymous said...

Technically, the Apple products (iPhone, iPad, Mac) are great, their design and their usability is unrivalled. I consider, however, my freedom as a higher value than such things. My freedom as a customer to use a device I paid for in any way I choose to.

The closed and controlled nature of Apples products are the reason I never ever would buy any of their products. I use an Android telephone instead, which means: I could use Googles Play Market if I wanted to (I don't), but I can choose (and have actually choosen) another option, i.e. the completely free F-Droid app store.

What is probably missing: An application similar to "Speak for Yourself" for Android, preferable Open Source, so that anybody skilled could update, repair, and enhance it, even if the original author looses interest.

Maybe you and other concerned people could fund an open source variant of "Speak for Yourself"? This would even be tax-deductible.

Anonymous said...


In response to a comment, you said:

"... The problem with this "solution" is that when the primary user of the device is a 4 yr old, I wonder how long 2 iPads will last (hopefully quite some time, but who knows)."

I suggest you purchase very good protective cases for both iPads, so that they last a long time. I confidently recommend the military-grade "Survivor" case from Giffin Technologies:

It exceeds the US military's specifications for protecting devices during on-filed use, from elements such as rain, dust, vibrations and shock (fall, etc.) I am a happy customer; I use this case for my iPod Touch, whose primary user is my 3-year old son.

Also, as others said, do remember to "lock down" both iPads to offline mode. No 3G, no WiFi, no syncing with iTunes, etc.

All the best to both of you and Maya!

- Rohit

Anonymous said...

I also second the suggestion of raising funds to sponsor an open-source replacement for Speak For Yourself. I would donate, and I'm sure many others will, too.

You can start an online fundraiser here: . Once you start, just post the link to this blog here, and lots of people will donate.

In case you don't know what "open source" is, it is when the developers of a software make the "source code" of the program available publicly, so that any other software developer can make changes to the source code and improve the program, add features, etc. And if the original developer of the program goes out of business (or have some other misfortune befall them), other people can step in and continue making the software available to users.

Also, for the future, I recommend Android tablets. They are not as high-quality or as user-friendly as Apple's products, but they allow us to install any software without requiring the permission of a faceless corporation. So, if Speak For Yourself were an app on the Android app store (called Google Play), and PRC forced Google to remove the app from that store (they can do that), you would still have the recourse of installing the app from an alternate app store. Or, you could have a copy of "Speak for Yourself" lying around on your laptop, and you could just re-install the app directly from the laptop. This is not possible with Apple's products.

So, if you raise funds for an open-source replacement Speak for Yourself, please have it built for Android (maybe in addition to iOS).

All the best again!
- Rohit

Unknown said...

You know. This is heartbreaking. Between patents and Apple's "walled garden" someone is actually being harmed.

Android tablets are out there, and the development for Android is quite open. I haven't spoken to my team, but we're very competent Android developers and we like making things that help folks. So, if you'll accept, I'll offer our services up to your family and any other family in the same situation free of charge.

They can't take away an application we place into the public domain (open source). Let me know. kelvin -at - kelvinwilliams - dot - net

Matthias said...

I can't imagine how hard this must be for you. Have you tried other assistive software? I've read about Proloquo, but I have never used the app because it's not available in German.

On the technical side, the safest thing to do is to turn of wifi so Apple can't access the iPad. Maybe it's possible to jailbreak a new iPad and transfer the app from the old to the new iPad? Or make a backup of the iPad on your computer? I don't own an iPad so I'm not familiar with the system.

Personally I would get an Android tablet, the system is so much more open. And there seems to be assistive software available too:

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Go into free solution, removing private corporation to touch it: Android, etc.
It may be technical, but you'll be independant and free too.

John said...

I'm sorry to hear about this. I suggest completely disconnecting the iPad from the net. Switch off 3G, Wifi etc. If Apple can't access the device, they can't remove Speak for Yourself.

Pooria said...

Another solution if you're afraid you might lose the ability to use the app if Apple pulls removes the app remotely (which it has NEVER done):

Pay $190 to SfY (outside App Store - and you have done it), ask them to give you a provisioning profile for beta testing, install it on your iPad, and then download updates with TestFlight ( or manually. Problem (partially solved!

It sucks, but at least you don't have to fear you might never be able to use this app again, or if the device breaks your life would be ruined.


This solution wouldn't work if SfY loses in the court, though.

Franc said...

First thing that sprung to mind reading this was my 3 year old having fun with the word poop :)

As suggested before, although an expensive action is to "freeze" the iPad by disabling wifi/3g so it can not receive an update so it will at least keep running.

Maybe (if you still have it locally) put it on an ipod?

Hope this poop gets resolved.

Anonymous said...

Dana - if apple were to reach into your device and delete an app it would be the very first time that apple has ever done this. The last major incident of this was when Amazon ironically reached into people's Kindles and deleted a fraudulent copy of "1984" off of people's devices. Were apple to do something similar to Amazon, I assure you they would be facing an even bigger media shitstorm, even without the incredible publicity that your article has already received.

But besides the degree of unlikelihood of apple being forced or electing to remove this app from your device, the advice that you've received from others to permanently take your device offline is probably the only sure-fire way to ensure that your daughter will continue to be able to communicate with you.

Anonymous said...

I am not affiliated with them, but I can highly recommend an otterbox case to help protect that ipad from a 4 year old.... mines been dropped multiple times. I swear that case is bomb-proof!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear about this, it's genuinely saddening.

If anyone needed any further proof that software patents are ridiculous and harmful, this is it.

Most of what's patented is not new, not innovative and should be nobody's property. The game is no longer about protecting your inventions, it's about trying to torpedo the competition or give yourself legal access to their wallet. Your daughter is just some lawyer's idea of minor, acceptable collateral damage. Sick world we live in.

Billy said...

Thats shocking news..

Christophe said...

Thanks for sharing this with us, I hope the community will be able to put enough pressure on this so it get resolve in a good way.

Christophe from Brazil.

Anonymous said...

You funded Apple. You helped create this problem for everyone. This is your fault.

Anonymous said...

What you experienced is the same problem as with Amazon's Kindle, where they deleted books that people thought they owned. I suggest you to get a rooted Android phone, and find an app that can be installed without the need of an app store. Then neither Google nor Apple can remove the App. Of course, the problem is whether the app exists...

As other people have noted, this is not only a patent problem, but a fundamental problem with Apple products.

I am sure some talented people would be willing to re-create the app. Maybe you can start a campaign on KickStarter to raise the money for it. I would definitely donate, even though I don't need the app myself.

Best regards,


Tanya in NY said...

"All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing."

– Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

In my opinion, Dana is bringing this issue to light not simply because of self-interest, but because she wants to address a larger issue:

The need for private property and the need to share in a society don't have to be mutually exclusive. Society needs to strike a balance.

By publishing her story, Dana is saying we have a choice (and a voice) to decide the course of these laws. One mark of a civil society is to make sure that the people who don't have a voice (literally and figuratively speaking) are protected.

All software developers, and hardware developers are standing on the shoulders of giants. Every invention is derivative of earlier inventions.

What if Xerox had succeeded in suing Apple into oblivion in its early days?

Are we to say that it is right that the ones with the biggest lawyers should win? Is that the kind of society we want to (continue to) live in?

Julius Schwartzenberg said...

This is a perfect example of why non-free software is problematic.

To Maya's parents, read up on free software and its implications on the freedom it brings to users. Only the use of fully free software can ensure a long-term safe solution for your daughter.

Apart from the current patent issues, you should also consider things like hardware failure, that services like iTunes itself are not guaranteed to exist eternally, etc.

Here is more information:

Maybe you want to get in touch with the FSF about this as well. You can also contact me in case something is not clear. Good luck!!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if this is a viable alternative for your needs, but, have a look at and the JabTalk software. It is available on Android devices (you would have new hardware costs) but is otherwise free and not subject to random take down requests to Apple.

Anonymous said...

Why are people talking about android here ?

Google does actually remove software from devices and from the playstore using their killswitch and has done this on numerous occasions.

I haven't heard/witnessed that Apple actually used a killswitch.

But in the end they work the same way.

Yes, your girl and others have become a victim of the patent disputes, which is unfortunate, however, this is what everyone would do when standing in their shoes.

If you invent something and someone else is taking your ideas and runs off, you will do everything possible to prevent it.

Empathy does not only apply to you and your child, but also to the inventors.

Ben and Erika said...

I'm so sorry to hear that. Perhaps you can make a YouTube video of maya using it and spread the word that way. Show the lawyers and the companies who they are affecting by not settling this in a way that is damaging those that truly rely on it. Also as much as I hate to say it, technology changes and we have to learn I adapt. Hopefully there is another app that can be used in the neat future.

Anonymous said...

Well, while Google can kill remotely an app (the same as Apple), you can distribute an app outside the google market place, hence the producer could just move to a different marketplace or distribute it directly from their own website.

Anonymous said...

This has made it to Hacker News and Slashdot. You're getting coverage, and this might be the snowball that starts a Streisand effect against this travesty.

I'll email this to my friends who write code for a living, and see if we can't get something working for you. There's plenty of Open Source software that could make a good starting point to clone SfY in a way that avoids these ridiculous software patents that Maya would take to. Keep the faith, the geek shall prevail.

Anonymous said...

If it helps, to date Apple has only remotely delete apps that are considered malicious (spyware, etc.)

Even the VLC app which was pulled by the developer is still on our iPad.

laurelsmom said...

"the geek shall prevail." LOL. That's the first thing that has made me laugh since Dana posted this. I hope you are right.

BambisMusings said...

What a horrible twist of fate!

We all know the patent and copyright laws need serious revamping and this is just one very serious reason.

What a setback this would be for Maya if it were to disappear from Maya's iPad!

But just as bad is that other children with similar situation as Maya will never know the joy of being able to easily communicate easily on the iPad like that.

They should be ashamed. But they won't be sadly. All they can see is dollar signs and a new way to make money off people who challenges in their lives. Just like companies like Jaws, WindowsEyes etc. and why so many Blind or sight impaired are actually moving to Linux as an alternative.

My thoughts and prayers are with Maya and the family.

So glad it has gotten the coverage and I hope it spreads like wildfire! And shames them into doing the right thing.

Anonymous said...

If I were you, I'd go into a "paranoid" mode to preserve the app for as long as possible:

1. Keep looking for a replacement for SFY.
2. Disable automatic updates for iPad's OS. Don't update it manually.
3. Don't connect iPad to the Internet.

Good luck!

Markus said...

Just jailbreak your iPad and install the APT directly instead of through the store. If it's truly a tool that only you and your daughter need, then it doesn't need to reside in the store and you can be happy and not have to deal with the Apple empire. They used to call Microsoft the evil empire, but it's clear that Apple, Google, and many other large corporations are the true patent trolls in society.

Anonymous said...


sorry to hear the events. I am not a regular visitor so I don't know how much technical knowledge you have.

I am not knowledgeable about Apple applications. You said you have taken a back-up copy of the application, to be a hundred percent sure, you rightly did it, someone who knows about the applications should send a step by step procedure of taking back-ups; so that you can check it yourself. Mine is just a hunch.

I hope it will end happily. Good luck!

Waqas said...

That is capitalism for you. Screw the people, salute to the big corporations!

Shame on the (in)justice system and shame on Apple. Who cares if 4 year olds cannot speak.

The patent law is tyrannical anyway. There were no patents for surgical instruments designed by Abu-Al-Qasim Al-Zahrawi of 10th century, he designed more than 200 instruments many of which are still in use today in surgery, especially in childbirth. What if Al-Zahrawi wants all surgeons to pay a "patent fee" for his designs?

What if the Arabs patent the numeral system and want you to pay them a fee for introducing the decimal system to the world? What if the Indians want you to pay a fee for every instance you use a zero? What if Alkhwarizmi's family wants you to pay for every time you use Algebra or an Algorithm?

EMS said...

I have kids in the same position and am Working on a solution to this problem myself. This is why I have always believed that Software and designs should not be patented. There are better ways to protect a companies intellectual property that don't harm those who they are developing systems to help.


BTOC Matt said...

I think this is why a recent article predicted Bill Gates/Gates Foundation will be remembered as historically important figures vs. Steve Jobs. Mr. Gates has actually improved the lives of people through philanthropy instead of working on the next shiny toy.

egypt4me said...

You need to create a PETITION on CHANGE.ORG

Anonymous said...

PRC has a response here:

They're basically saying that the people behind SfY are ex-PRC employees that used their knowledge of PRC's product to make a competing clone, and that it was Apple's choice to remove the app.

Bernard Schaffer said...

I posted this comment on the PRC Google+ announcement regarding this. Also, I'll be doing something on my own blog:

With respect to Mr. Baker's work and your company's patent, it is understandable that you seek to protect what you created and own. That being said, there are families in serious predicaments who are making use of the "Speak for Yourself" app in question for the stability and well-being of their loved ones.
If your company has the resources to defend itself so vigorously in court, why not dedicate some of those resources (deep pockets) to providing an immediate alternate remedy?
There are vast armies of programmers and designers out there right now who would rally to your cause, especially if you threw some greenbacks their way.
Here's my solution:
Announce a contest to see who can take your patented software and create the easiest, most functional app in the shortest amount of time.
Have Dana Nieder and her daughter flown into your corporate headquarters to test drive the winner.
It's a PR win for you, a win for the families in need, and continues to provide a service that there is obviously a market for.
You can do this if you put your minds to it, PRC.

Bernard Schaffer
El Presidente of the Kindle All-Stars

Anonymous said...

Change.Org could be what changes the tide on this one. Let us know if you start a petition.

Justin Leone said...

"They used to call Microsoft the evil empire, but it's clear that Apple, Google, and many other large corporations are the true patent trolls in society."

To be fair to Google, they also tend to give out everything they create for free, and their Android OS is Open-Source, and they don't police the apps that run on it like Apple does.

In any case, you might want to consider (if possible) disconnecting the iPad from the internet and disabling OS upgrades. And perhaps getting another iPad of the same version and keeping it in the box as a backup, because Apple products made in the last 10 years or so seem to have a 3 - 5 year lifespan.

Justin Leone said...

"What cases can you cite that support your interpretation of the way software patents actually work?"

That's not really a fair question, because you wouldn't hear about all the examples of it working. In a sense, every thriving software company can be said to rely on patents. It's sad but true that patents are actually important when it comes to software, because the only thing you're selling is information, which can be stolen very easily.

That said, it seems like, in this case, they've circumvented the legal process by going directly to Apple, which is sort've sleazy, particularly given that the product they're trying to squelch clearly doesn't mirror any that they're selling. Perhaps they should be suing for royalties, if it's built partially on their IP, but it's ridiculous to shut down an app that isn't directly competing, but filling a niche that they aren't filling themselves.

Unknown said...

Teach yourself and your kid sign language. Don't make her life depending on an app. Be a good parent.

Philip said...

I took the time to read previous posts. Dana indicates that Maya does use some sign-language (ASL) but due to motor difficulties, that doesn't come out quite right, hardly recognizable even to native ASL'ers (thus MSL, Maya Sign Language, only usable at home.) That's why they looked for other options, not out of laziness or ignorance.

My daughter has no handicaps of any kind, yet we still take the time to teach her ASL, because we figure it may come in handy some day. She enjoyed the baby signing time stuff before she could talk, and now still demands to watch the toddler/child-level stuff even though she has no immediate need for it.

To help families like this one, I'd encourage everyone to learn some sign language; it's amazing how often it comes up when you're out in public. You could really make someone's day.

Will Kriski (Potato Strong) said...

I could try and help with an HTML5 app so you wouldn't have to use the App Store. We could have a series of buttons that triggers an mp3 file for each button for starters. I can't see how this could be a patent violation.

Anonymous said...

While I can sympathize with your frustration, there is little that you can do and little that is actually being done to you and your child. You still have your app regardless, sans updates sure, but nothing has been taken from you.

You should look into teaching your daughter sign language. She is at an age where she can pick it up quickly [if she can learn to utilize this app, surely she can learn to sign]. By relying solely on this application you are doing your daughter a disservice and creating a barrier between her and the people she wants to communicate with. It won't always be practical for her to have a device mediate conversations. Teaching your daughter sign language would mean that she was no longer reliant on anyone or anything to communicate. It would also open up the world of language and writing to her.

Patent laws are definitely in need of revision, however, this lawsuit and Apple's responses to it are not uncommon. Of course Apple is going to remove the app from the store if there a court case pending, they need to cover all their bases. It has nothing to do with you personally and there is nothing you personally can do to change it.

What you can change is your daughter's reliance on technology to interact with the world and give her the independence she deserves.

Anonymous said...

All of the comments regarding technical solutions, such as jail-breaking or moving to Android, while well-meaning, are ultimately not going to solve the basic problem with the patent and product ownership laws. At the technical level, Apple, Google, Amazon and others all have the ability to "kill" your apps if you re-connect to their servers for updates or other reasons, so it's not the platform that's the problem here.

I've read the legal filings and the patent information. The patent is bogus; the idea is used by dozens (if not hundreds) of existing computer programs out there, and has been in use for decades. The patent holder no more invented this idea than you invented the "inverted cheeseburger" as a kind when you put your cheese slice under the meat. That is to say (as with many software patents) the idea is obvious and has been independently though of by hundreds of computer programmers. It doesn't deserve a patent.

The legal filings are -- as is typical -- hilarious. They claim, among other things, that the two women behind the design of SfY intentionally stole the patent: "learned of Plaintiff's product and patents ... while attending various seminars" presented by PRC and "determined to directly compete". If the patented knowledge was so damned important, why were they telling people about how it worked at seminars? And how is that PRC and its lawyers can read the minds of the SfY developers, going inside their heads to know that they "determined" to compete, i.e. consciously decided to compete using stolen knowledge? Of course, this is just the same legal nonsense often used to attack someone being sued.

Really, this case is a perfect example of how our patent, justice, and legal systems are broken.

The patent system is broken because it issues patents for things which should never deserve patents (most software), and has become a way for patent trolls to make money versus a way to provide limited exclusive right to something IN RETURN FOR making it public for the benefit of the public.

The justice system is broken in the sense that those with more money and more lawyers typically prevail, and companies (like Apple in this case) react in a knee-jerk fashion to any perceived remote possibility of legal liability by making awful choices.

And our legal system is broken in that corporations have obtained far too many rights and privileges, far, far beyond their original intent (look up B Corp, for instance of chartering for a specific public purpose, to 100% focus on profits for shareholders with most of the rights of individual persons as citizens (despite being immortal, and able to die and resurrect to avoid liabilities) yet none of the responsibilities. As has already been pointed out, you can put a bunch of good people who do good, moral things individually into a corporation and they'll make unethical, immoral decisions absolved of any responsibility except profit. See also Citizens United. This topic is huge.

Maya's case -- and others similar -- is where all these laws and business and corporations run head on into humanity -- with the individual and collective wants and needs and rights to live a decent life, with good and moral behaviors. The clearly right thing is to allow all children and adults like Maya the right to speak, the ability to speak in an affordable and easy manner. PRC's lawsuit is all about corporate greed over-ruling common human decency and dignity. PRC deserves to fail as a company, simply for being overwhelmingly evil.

Anonymous said...

If the app works without internet, you could keep the device permanently disconnected from the net. That would mean that the app would continue working even if apple tried to remove it; it would never recieve the command to delete.

Anonymous said...

I'm not familiar with this app but there are freely available software out there that converts text to speech. Even a website:

Where you can try it out or use it for your purposes. A simple interface that allowed a child to press picture buttons and these would be converted to the appropriate words could be written if one doesn't exist. It wouldn't be hard to start such a project if it doesn't exist.

Unknown said...

Hi Dana,
I'm very sympathetic to your cause. In case you didn't know, you've been slashdotted (if you don't know what that means, look here: I emailed apple with a variation of Tess' message, I'm attaching below.

Good luck,


Dear Apple,

I am following the Speak for Yourself patent case with great interest.

I am no lawyer or patent expert, but from a review of the facts I understand that Apple has chosen to remove this app from the app store and that it has not been ordered by any court to do so.

I urge you to reconsider this course of action. The complainants in this case are due their day in court and the outcome of that case may lead to some changes, none of which need to be the removal of this valuable resource from families of nonverbal people. Do your job Apple store, continue to sell the app and let the courts worry about everything else.

I'm sure that, should the court decide the application is in fact infringing, your prompt removal at the time of the decision will result in no damages on your part. And even if I'm wrong, you may want to consider if those monetary damages are comparable to the damage to your image the current decision is causing. In case you haven't noticed, news are spreading fast, and not only within the disability community. Patent laws are have no morality. But maybe it's time for Apple to show that the company does have a sense of what's right.


Anonymous said...

Sorry. Get a real general purpose computer, not a toy that only allows you to download approved software.

Walled gardens take your control away.

If you can't read the source code,
If you can't modify the source code,

If you can't compile the source code,

You will always have issues like this.

This is the tradeoff.

Oh, and most IP law is horribly broken... sorry.

Unknown said...

You should check out your local Scottish Rite. I know a few of them support speech centers which could possibly provide the necessary equipment outside of this application. If you'd like assistance with finding out about this, please contact me.

Anonymous said...

I really dont mean to sound harsh, but nobody is actually breaking any rules with what they have done. Sadly the Appstore lets apple play god and do whatever they want. Its the price to pay for buying an apple :( I really feel for you but i really would if i was you get somthing thats actually dedicated for people like your daughter and not just a "fun app" as they come and go. Development could stop for any reason or at any time anyway.

PDH said...

You mention looking at alternatives, but I don't think I've seen which ones. Our daughter uses a PRC device, but she also has an iPad on which she mainly uses GridPlayer. It's free but to program it you use an expensive ($300 range I think) PC based app. There's also Proloquo2Go which is not as expensive but we haven't played with it.

Will Kriski (Potato Strong) said...

here's an example I just code up to show how tapping an image can play a sound. HTML5 no app store required. You can even try it on your iPad

Anonymous said...

Let's ditch the FUD for a bit, and put away the petty (and completely unhelpful) sermonizing. It's time to talk about where we are and where we're going.

First, you have the app. It's yours, and it works. It's not a realistic assumption that it's going to go anywhere without your permission, so long as you back up the computer the iPad itself is backed up to. If you want extra security to ease your mind, copy one of the iPad backups to a removable device, like a USB stick. Or two (they're both small and cheap).

Even upgrading the iPad OS isn't necessarily fatal, as you can always wipe an upgraded iPad and restore it to an older state if the new iOS doesn't work for you. If you want to test it, start with your backup iPad first, obviously.

Second, the threat of breakage is real. But just like the upgrade, it's not likely to be more than inconvenient for at least 5 years, and maybe 10. Protect it as well as you can, and keep an eye on new iPad hardware releases, until you find mentions that new iPad x can't run the older versions of iOS.

Something to consider as a clarifier in this process is to buy/borrow (your local apple store might even help with this project) a new iPad occasionally and try restoring it with the backup of your current one, just to see that it still works. So long as current hardware continues to work with your older system/apps breakage will remain only an inconvenience.

Keep an eye on eBay and ubid for old iPads. They will remain available on the aftermarket for years (heck, it's only recently that Newtons became rare, and they died well over a decade ago). The auctions will be a good source for replacements of your current system for years to come, as will other used computer shops.

Keep aware, keep your eyes open, and you'll keep Maya talking for years to come. In the meantime, the dust will settle, tech will improve, and a better solution will become available. (Yes, that's faith. But can you name many times when technological improvements haven't happened at least once in a decade?)

Anonymous said...

It is truly a shame that the particular application that works so well for your daughter is involved in a lawsuit. That does not change the fact that stealing IP is unethical, as is supporting those who have unethical business practices.

blatanville said...

I sent both of the plaintiff companies in the case an email.

this is Prentke Romich's response:

Subject: Response to your email

Thank you for your email. I understand your concerns but, as you suggest, there are reasons to pursue the legal case. We found numerous instances in which the SFY app infringes on patents for the Unity™ system. 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.

J. Donofrio

VP of Marketing

BlackWasp said...

I understand the need for patents to protect technologies and designs but the idea of software patents is repellent in 99.9% of cases. The patents tend to be ridiculously open to interpretation and covering elements of code that are the only way of doing things. It's about as sensible as allowing people to patent a particular way of walking.

I wish you the very best of luck with this and hope Maya keeps her voice.

Unknown said...

Dana, one thing *you* can do is start a petition at to use public opinion to pressure the companies involved.

The situation that you are describing makes absolutely no sense, but unless a large number of people speak up on your behalf, nothing is likely to change.

Loonook said...

Just a sad story and ridiculous that, in this day and age, we have to see a child's voice stolen. Hell, she's like a little fairytale princess, and I hope that some kind prince will come along, kick these greedy corporations about the head and neck area, and return her voice to her.

You're a great parent, and I have to tell you that I support your endeavors whole-heartedly.

Anonymous said...

You probably never worked in a corporate environment to say something as removed from Earth as Venus is " I am quite confident that those sueing do not realize the impact this could have on kids and their families."

Anonymous said...

Brain dead logic...

1. I want your spouse & your house. To encourage you to settle it with me... we should take your spouse away & kick you out your house.

2. Indirect infringement on something not proven an infringement!!!

My advice: keep your stupidity to yourself

Anonymous said...

I agree with Michael Gorovoy's (posted June 13, 20:12 5:55pm) regarding Placing an informal petition there will garner a lot of signers. While lawyers do their thing, the petitions bring home the power of public opinion. All it takes is to convince the party filing the lawsuit to withdraw and all the legal stuff no longer matters. Apple may or may not bend to the pressure, but I think the PRC people might relent.

Xander said...

Are people seriously painting PRC as the bad guy here? It seems they have a legitimate IP case here.
it's Apple, with their closed dictatorial control of their platforms, that should be brought under scrutiny. I don't know the merits of the case as I'm not closely following this, but if PRC has a legitimate IP claim, then they should be thanked for creating the technology that allowed such a product to even exist. the fact that they require compensation for this good work is only fair. If you are so concerned about your daughter's voice, go buy PRC's products instead of relying on trying to get their IP for free.

Booger Bender said...

If all else fails and the application is no longer available. I know it's not much but it's something. It could be suggested to learn sign language for her to speak. Sign language is been for mute, deaf, blind/deaf etc.. I hope this will give some glimmer of hope that there are still other options without the application. I'm sorry about what you guys went through and it's ridiculous that companies resort to infringement cases to make a quick buck and not care if anyone relies on such application. It's unfair.
The Deaf culture supports you.
All the best,

Booger Bender

Anonymous said...

Android devices won't remote-wipe apps you already have installed. Get an Android.

Resuna said...

Dear "Unknown".

My question was completely fair, because if software patents were as important to the industry as you claim, while we wouldn't know about all the examples of it working, there would be thousands of such examples and many would be common knowledge.

And the common argument that "oh, startups need patents to protect themselves from big companies stealing their stuff" is total eyewash. What happens when a software company sues a big software company over a patent is the big company looks through their patent portfolio, and finds some obscure patent that the other software company is violating, and they end up settling for cross-licensing. Which might feel good, in some kind of way, but doesn't make you any money.

The problem is that any substantial piece of software involves the programmer sitting down and implementing thousands of algorithms, far too many to research. Because software is the most complex "stuff" we have ever built, and it's _all_ new. It's not like building physical objects, where the big cost is actually building them, and even on a really complex device most of the components are basically the same as the ones next to them. If you write the same code twice in a program, that's a mistake... you didn't notice that you'd created a subroutine.

So the only people who can successfully sue big companies over software patents are people who don't make software. Which is why there's all these bogus software patent lawsuits coming out of east Texas, and when I ask whether you can name an example of software patents working the way you think they work, you change the subject.

Anonymous said...

If you check out the products section on Prentke Romich's website you can clearly see the motivation for their actions. They sell the equivalent of what your daughter uses from $7595. The most effective way to fight back is to get blog posts like this high enough in the page ranks so that any search for "Prentke Romich" turns up the darker side of their business model.

They are a company that is deeply threatened by the iPad and SfY and doing everything they can to protect their overpriced and inferior alternative.

Dana said...

Thanks to all who are taking the time to leave support and suggestions.

I have added a new post that answers some recurring FAQs:

James Salsman said...

Why are you trusting such a young child with such an expensive device? Get an Android Nook from Barnes and Noble for $150 and run Quick Talk AAC ($15) on it. Save now and save later when it gets broken.

Unknown said...

We hope your situation get's resolved quickly.

Anonymous said...

You're right - it's bullshit.

But I'm afraid you have to accept such despicable results when you buy hardware that is DESIGNED to reduce your freedom.

Unknown said...

I don't understand why people think it is ok for apple to delete apps from your own device. android is far more robust and not controlled by google but by you.

Anonymous said...

get in contact with Kelvin Williams, He's an amazing app developer and has vowed to develope a GPL version of this software. If it goes OpenSource, nothing can stop it, and it will be free (which it should be). If you really want to stick it to them, make it so NOBODY can make money off the damned thing. On a more vengful note, if the tech is free and easily accessable, it will put those two cunt-bag corps out of business.

Akash said...

Hi Dana,

I truly hope this all works out for you and your family. I don't know much about technology myself, but I will to spread the news to everyone I know!

Anonymous said...

All I see in your story is that you want to force someone (Apple) to do it your way.

Instead of having your child's welfare in your focus, you have the fight with Apple in your focus to do exactly your way.

There are plenty of text to speech apps, Maya is now also older and can learn a different one, and your insisting of using the Apple brand is to be called immature at best.

Get an android phone (does not need any service), root it, put apps on it that Maya needs, and leave it that way.

No service needed, the phone can be tethered via wifi to another device. You may want to have service for a month (buy a Boost Android) to install everything from the market, then you won't need any service to run them.
No update needed, it it works then it is fine.

your behavior is ridiculous, immature, and you are neglecting your child's needs and put your egotistic megalomania in front of everything.

Mike N

Anonymous said...

I think the point that Mike N above is overlooking is the point that the child has grown with this particular app and has learnt to use it to an extent where she is comfortable and confident with it. Now he expects that she can pick up another device with a totally different app and just use it?!?!

That's just naive Mike N and a little idiotic really. If you spend years learning French, would you be annoyed if the company you worked for sent you to the Spain branch? Do you maybe work for one of the evil companies in question here that are intent on putting their own financial gains ahead of a young mind's ability to communicate and progress?

My daughter is also unable to speak at 5 and has just started using the Proloquo2Go app on an iPad provided by her school. I only hope that this one's safe from potential copyright nonsense as she's doing well with it so far.

Copyright laws really need to take circumstances like this into consideration when persecuting the little man who's only sin is offering help to those that maybe can't afford the bigger, ridiculously overpriced alternative.

Unknown said...

Licensing law is too much for consumers ,vendors have more and more control on their product than you do have.They can impose stringent policies whenever they want and there is no use in complaining.I suppose we need to have free software system

Anonymous said...

No question about it - Start a petition on - Then get the whole matter to go viral, which should be pretty easy with Apple involved. I bet 250K+ signatures in < 1 week as references show up in the right places.

Anonymous said...

Apple and their little fortress of stupid they have created in their app store do suck, but consider this:

The comparable PRC device was about the cost of two ipads after insurance the last time I worked with any, and built to survive about anything, and is repairable.

Since istuff cannot easily be repaired I would imagine you would hit break-even in 5-6 years when the first one dies. They aren't as attractive and cannot do all the stuff adults might want to do when maya is sleeping but they serve the purpose well and are better suited to constant and varied use.

PRC is a tiny company in a small town that barely has any tech industry. They may or may not have a case. That is for the courts to decide. SFY seems to indicate the case is not frivolous.

The PRC device prices reflect that they are selling medical assistance devices rather than consumer apps.

Apple has 2x as many employees as PRC's home town has population. They could certainly afford to spend a few more minutes per complaint to determine if the request to kill an app is legally valid, but they don't and they really never have.

Apple is the only party that seems to have dome something objectionable so far

Oliver Uvman said...

Hi! To all the people insinuating that software patents are a valid form of IP that encourages innovation, please educate yourselves! The software patent system has struck American IT startups lame and is severely hampering innovation. It is a broken tool, a prison, wrongly designed from the start by people who have no idea of how different software is from non-software.

I'm a computer scientist from Sweden and I'm _very very_ afraid that the lobbyists down in Brussels (EU lobbyists) might eventually manage to push through software patent laws here as well. It is a tool for the established corporations to suppress competition from startups, and they are spending boatloads of money trying to introduce it here. Luckily we've been mostly resilient so far. Here is a good page to educate oneself:

Also, Dana, I hope everything goes well for you and your family! I can only hope that you manage to keep the app until something better comes along, as is inevitable. May you have happiness and the causes of happiness, may you be free from sorrow and the causes of sorrow.

Alan Bell said...

I spent a couple of hours building an html5 web page that does some of the components of building such a system. here it is. Anyone want to help make it real?

Nash said...

This is very unfortunate indeed. However, it is widely known that Apple's attitude and posturing are draconian and aggressively closed, with control maintained on devices that have already been sold.

This is one of the reasons you shouldn't be depending on products from such a company when the said functionality is as important as SFY is to Maya.

It would be something else if you didn't have a choice, but there are alternative available on Android. A simple search on the Play Store for 'text to speech' attests to that.

Anonymous said...

Have you thought of starting an online petition, and spreading it through facebook? Might go some way to really hitting Apple and the other company.


Anonymous said...

Not a perfect solution, but I concur with what others have said: take that particular iPad offline. Don't connect wirelessly and don't connect to a computer that has iTunes installed or to a Mac. Treat it as a dedicated communication tool and nothing else.

Anonymous said...

Brain dead it may be, but the original anonymous poster is correct; that's the legal situation. Further, Apple is, by comparison to the majority of software companies (which tend to be very small businesses, actually), worth suing. That is, it has money that could be paid out in damages. The authors of SfY probably don't.

Software developers have been complaining for a long time now about the way the patent system operates in respect of computer software; usually this has fallen on deaf ears — the general public doesn’t care, and the legal fraternity is making far too much money from it to want anything to change. As, actually, are some venture capitalists.

The awful truth is that patents are regularly granted for things that aren’t inventions at all; indeed, for things that aren’t even particularly innovative and that in some cases don’t display an awful lot of imagination. That isn’t what the patent system was supposed to be for, but it’s what has happened in the United States and increasingly in other jurisdictions too.

Finally, there is another reason Apple is likely to remove apps in this situation: the patent holder could allege that Apple *and* the software developer *jointly* infringe the patent. Again, Apple has money and so is worth suing.

Oh, and one final note: in the United States, which is where the biggest problem is, the law says that patent holders can claim treble damages for “wilful infringement”. You might think that sounds reasonable, but because of the way the legal system determines whether or not infringement is wilful, the bar for triggering this is *remarkably* low. For instance, if the patent holder tells Apple that, they allege, a piece of software infringes their patent, Apple in order to avoid a claim for wilful infringement must immediately take legal advice from a patent attorney; if they don't act on that advice, or if they don’t take advice straight away, case law suggests that, if infringement is proved, they will be held guilty of wilful infringement and will therefore have to pay treble damages.

Even if you don't infringe, there was a report published suggesting that the *average* cost of defending a patent suit was over $1M.

If you're a U.S. citizen and you think this sucks, write to your representatives. Give this case as an example (it isn't the only one, but it's the best one I've seen yet for changing public opinion). You might also be interested to read about

Now, telling your representatives that you don't think software should be patentable is all well and good, but it's so difficult to determine what is and is not a software patent that even if they banned such things, people would find a way around it (as they do in the EU, for instance, by patenting a computing device that runs a particular piece of software). Much better to ask them to change the law so that patents were not enforceable against:

1. Pure software, or

2. Software running on a commodity device (like an iPad, or a general purpose computer).

There'll be less opposition to this from patent holders, since it doesn't prevent someone patenting a vacuum cleaner that does something clever involving software, and it *might* (just) result in a change to the law.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, as I understand it (I am not a lawyer either) they can’t wait for an injunction, because that risks treble damages (for Apple, under the doctrine of joint infringement) if a court upholds the allegation of infringement.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that the software industry is unique in that:

1. It has low capital costs. The equipment required to develop software can be found in most homes, never mind workplaces.

2. The largest cost is the time of the developer.

3. Software is quite valuable to its users; i.e. it easily covers the capital costs. It also has a long lifetime, so it’s likely to cover the developer’s time as well, at least in the long run.

4. Software developers (decent ones, anyway) ENJOY developing software.

The bald fact is that software developers DO NOT NEED PATENTS to encourage them to innovate. In fact, patents, where they do exist, typically have a perverse effect on software; for instance, IBM for years had a patent on arithmetic coding (a type of data compression). So NOBODY IMPLEMENTED IT. It was even in the JPEG specification, but very few programs could understand it. Everyone just used Huffman coding instead, which is not as good, but wasn't patent encumbered. Software patents HOLD UP innovation; they don't encourage it.

I should say: I *AM* a software developer. I know lots of software developers. I don’t know ANY developers who think patenting software is a good thing. Even those I've spoken to whose names are on patent applications, actually, generally say they were told to apply for the patent and in many cases that they regret not refusing point blank.

alastair said...

Let’s not conflate the issues here. Free Software may be something you’re very keen on, but this case is purely about the broken patent system; *every* software developer and most software companies agree that it’s a mess and that it needs fixing. Dividing unnecessarily into two camps, one of which goes on about the supposed “evils” of proprietary software is not necessary. (I also claim that many of your allegations are untrue; for instance, it isn’t uncommon for proprietary software companies to publish their source code and/or release their software for free if they go under. Moreover, Free Software is just as vulnerable to the patent problem as proprietary software — more so, in many ways, because there is no obvious owner that could hold a patent license, whereas at least with proprietary software there’s a chance that the owner could pay a royalty and carry on.)

alastair said...

Please don’t make unsupportable statements in advocacy of Open Source.

The facts:

1. Open Source/Free Software *can* infringe patents right now.

2. If Apple receives an allegation that it does, it’ll be booted out of the store in just the same way. Probably faster, actually, since Apple is in the case of FOSS the only entity that *could* be sued.

3. There is no way for FOSS to *take* a patent license. In that sense it is MORE, not less vulnerable to this problem.

Tharaka Devinda said...

Hearing your kid say daddy is the best experience of life, which I am really lucky to experience.
I have two solutions to this issue.

1. Short term
You can either jailbreak the iPad or keep the backups like the other users said.
There is another option of spreading the same thing amoungst Android devs and hacks out there, show them the app, and ask them to code it. (if you go for this option, I am willing to write code for it free of charge to the best extent I know Java. I'm no expert, but I can do something)

2. She cant be dependent on the same iPad for life. you need to teach her the sign language, and more importantly, you guys need to learn it. I know this means she cant communicate with outsiders. But the real issue here is that you cant make her life dependant on a outdating piece of hardware which has the tendency to break up after its gone end-of-life in stores.

Anyway, you need to take action fast. and nobody forces you to choose "one" option, you can do both!

Hope your daughter gets a good answer.

alastair said...

IMO Apple is doing the only thing it can in the context of the U.S. legal system. If it didn't kick apps out quickly when patent infringement is alleged and the parties haven't reached a settlement within a reasonable time, it might be held to be guilty of wilful joint infringement, hence treble damages, hence big payouts for lawyers. That will just encourage others to jump on the software patent merry-go-round.

Rather than whining about Apple, what you need to do is to write to your representative, pointing out this case and asking for a new law that prohibits enforcement of patents against:

1. Pure software, and

2. Software running on a commodity device (e.g. an iPad, or a personal computer).

That's the only way this will get fixed.

mickliddy said...

I'm also a software developer and can't pick fault with any of that. What's more, I'd go so far as to say that I would even release all of my code as open source given the chance. Companies like Red Hat have shown that simply by offering support for free products; you can make a lot of money. Google is doing this with Android (albeit not to the same extent), for another example.

Unknown said...

Someone needs to port this app to android where it can freely live. Shame on you Apple.

Anonymous said...

I refuse to look at this case from a technological standpoint. I can only share that my brother right now is in Africa and the only ways I have to communicate with him are to write him a letter or to email him. I do both, but emails allow me to have short conversations from time to time. I rely on emails very heavily and I would be lost without this type of communication. I don't care what kinds of issues the companies are having, they should know better than to take away this communication from your daughter and other little children. I will spread this around as much as is possible and I will keep Maya in my prayers!

Anonymous said...

All this talk about freeware and making the source code available for SFY app is pointless, the app itself is the issue, PRC is claiming patent infringement and that is tying it up. The bottom line is that you want an app and an Ipad to act as though they are a dedicated communication device, and they are not. Any app for an Ipad or Android is at risk of not lasting as long as you want them to last because they are just that, apps. There isn’t a company backing them that is committed to providing ongoing support for them.

There is a reason that companies such as Prentke Romich and DynaVox provide such a great service to people without a voice, they are committed to providing durable medical equipment that is research based to meet the needs of their users, is durable enough to withstand daily use by young active children, and can provide technical support and repairs for years to come. Without PRC, the creators of SFY would never have been able to create their app, they would not have had the benefit of the years that were spent in developing the product that they so blatantly copied. The loss of this app is a risk that comes with using apps and not a dedicated communication devices. If you daughter was able to learn this app, she could have learned to use a PRC device as well. She learned this app quickly, because it is not a full bodied communication program, she will most likely quickly outgrow this app’s language capability. Then you will be bemoaning the fact that it cannot keep up with her language acquisition.

The size and/or weight is a moot point, many children cannot hold or transport Ipads once you put them in a durable case and add external speakers if needed. Many children, despite our most desperate hopes, do not carry communication aids, they leave them in a “spot” and utilize them from there. They need their hands free to do their “job”, which is to play and through play, learn.

When an augmentative communication system is a child’s primary means of communication, you must plan for the long range in terms of language development and accommodating her needs as she continues to grow and learn. That is what a dedicated communication device does, it allows for continued growth and development of communication skills of the user that will be supported by a company that will maintain it for years to come. That is what an “app” cannot do. They are subject to the whims and desires of their developers and the mercy of a third party manufacturer for hardware.

Dana said...

Anonymous, you've missed the point that the PRC and Dynavox lines were not acceptable to us, and it wasn't because of the weight (if you've seen pictures of Maya's talker we have a large case and keyguard). It was because the language organization systems used by Dynavox and PRC were not (and are not) a good fit for us.

If Speak for Yourself software ran on a dedicated device, we might grab that up, but for now the app is solely coded to run on an iOS platform.

Also, by attempting to point out that Speak for Yourself is not a full bodied communication program you are showing that you likely have not worked with this app. I thought long and hard before introducing her to a system precisely because it is not fair to keep switching systems on her. Lawsuits and app-pulling aside, I can't see a single reason that this app could not serve her for as long as she is in need of AAC.

Jean-Michel Reghem said...


I didn't know this app SFY.

But I work for Acapela Group, a text to speech provider.
We have A LOT of customers building wonderful AAC apps for iPhone and iPad, with our Text to Speech voices.

Have a look at and select "accessibility and AAC"

For instance, here is some wonderful AAC apps using our TTS:

Proloquo2Go : (probably the most renowned first one on iOS, since 2009! and with a lot of wonderful story in video like the one you told us about your daughter)



TouchChat HD

Verbally for iPad:

GoTalk Now:

KType for iPad:

Grid Player (companion of The Grid app for windows):




Hope this helps ...
don't hesitate to contact me if you want that I introduce you directly to the developers of one of this apps ...

Best regards

Jean-Michel Reghem
Acapela Group

Jimich said...

Forgot to post with my google account
--> if you want to contact me, use this email:
contact at acapela-for-iphone dot com

Anonymous said...

Hi- Sorry I don't have time to read all the comments. I'm a speech/language pathologist. Using AAC with children who have been previously nonverbal can be a miraculous experience! I only want to make a simple point, and I'm not sure if it's already been made. Aside from the unfairness of the lawsuit- IF your child has made success using this AAC app, chances are she can learn to use another app as well. I have found through the years, that once kids get the hang of functional communication, it's not hard to train them using a variety of modalities. HAving said that, I haven't really checked out all the available AAC apps out there to know which ones are easy to use, etc, I just wanted you to know that if your child can communicate with an app, chances are that she can be trained to use other forms of alternative communication- if it ends up that you're not able to use your current app.

Anonymous said...

Contact Apple CEO Tim Cook directly on this issue. Cook has said that, though he cannot read every email, he reads many and it does have an effect.

You can also copy the parties in the patent case, and make your argument. You can also make the argument that even if the developer violated a patent, it can be reasonable that the developer would need to simply license the patent from the owner, or agree to some revenue sharing.

Unknown said...

Start a petition! This website is a great tool! They send emails to their subscribers to help increase your signatures!

Anonymous said...

This has nothing to do with your daughter, nor does it have anything to do with taking away her voice. There are hundreds of options for communication. In fact there are very high quality devices that have true research and evidence to prove they work. The iPad technology is extremely new, and the AAC piece is even newer with the iPad. What dos this mean? PRC is a company who has been around for decades. They have some of the best devices available for communication, and far superior knowledge on the development of language and communication. What does this mean? It is clearly a problem that the developers of the app chose to create a platform that stole patent technology. How do you know, well, the language in their advertising, the features of the app, the layout of the app sure seem suspect. Not to mention the ladies throw out terms and research created by PRC. The fault of this is on them for using protected technology, not PRC. If you wrote a song and someone decided to claim it as theirs and went ahead and made money on it, wouldn't you be upset? Wouldn't you be upset if you spent money on the writing supplies, and the recording of the song? PRC has spent millions of dollars researching, testing, developing, and protecting what is rightfully theirs. Your daughter deserves the right to speak, but it isn't PRCs fault for the handling of the development by these ladies, it is their fault. Find a better product with far more research and evidence to prove communication works for your child. To try and form a we hate PRC for taking away my daughters voice, is not PRCs problem, it's the women who developed an app by stealing ideas and trying to make money on it.
I am a assistive technology expert, with plenty of experience working with communication devices, as well as understanding the research and effectiveness. Turning to the iPad and an app for AAC is problem number one. Anyone can create an app and slap claims on it, even use communication, AAC, or other terms, and yet don't have to answer to anyone when the app is a big disappointment and doesn't do what it claims. Communication, language, AAC, these are things you don't take lightly and expect an app to provide the development of language. Sure they are SLPs, but how much time, money, research, testing, test groups, etc did they exhaust before submitting it to the app store? Did they look into patents? I'm guessing they used all these devices from PRC, Tobii, Dynavox, decided, hey we can do this in an app. I bet they really liked the Vantage Lite. But did they ever think, maybe we need to create our own ideas instead of using what was created and protected by others.
Find another device, and find a device where you are given a thorough assessment, and the ability to trial it. Sitting back and bitching about PRC, means less time focusing on finding a voice for your child. I'd rather trust the decades of work, decades of money spent on researching, the decades of experts putting their knowledge together, and the decades of proven effectiveness. Blaming PRC and Apple is not the answer. What do you expect a company to do?

Anonymous said...

I hope you would not royal your daughter's voice on the assumption that the "kill switch" never be activated. They cannot take that risk. I don't know if you have children, but I do, and I understand.

Anonymous said...

You can start a petition to Apple on, they send out e-mails to people to get them to sign the petitions. I'm sure they would love to share Maya's story.

Resuna said...

It's amazing how many of the people posting in favor of software patents are Anonymous.

Chris McClelland said...

Fundamentally, by using a piece of nonfree* software (irrespective of whether the author gave it to you gratis or sold it to you), you are implicitly buying into the notion that someone else (lawyers, Apple, PRC etc) has the right to control how you use your software.

Apple products are amazing, I will admit that. But if you value your freedom to use your hardware and your software as you see fit (and not how some lawyer sees fit), then Apple products are probably not for you.

* See here for a definition of free software.

Anonymous said...

Excuse my French, but people at Apple are douchebags. Do not expect from them to make any moral stands, they are more likely to be the first to run you down if they stand to lose a penny. As they did, incidentally.

Nitin said...

This comment might not get read but if you can find it, the app that you want is probably available as a cracked app. Jailbreak Maya's iPad and download the cracked app. What I'm suggesting is illegal. But in this case, worth it.

Please delete this comment if you disagree with this idea.

Anonymous said...

Well, what do you think happens with patented medications, and a ban on importing drugs from countries like Canada where the government actually negotiated lower prices? We have some serious issues in united states with corporate interests being put in front of public good, civil liberties and common sense.

Jerry said...

Anonymous @ 6:37, If you've read the blog or background on this story you would realize that this Mom doesn't ever seem to "sit back and bitch." It seems like she put a lot of time and research into this choice for her daughter.She tried PRC,Dynavox,and they didn't work for the child.She bought an app that works from a reputable(?) company, not the black market. How is she at fault?

Mike J said...

Its a sad day when the profitability of a company outweighs the needs of a child.

Anonymous said...

Jerry, I will gaurantee those devices were not introduced properly than, but there is a difference between a PRC product and a Dynavox product. I will also gaurantee that the app is never going to be better, except for expectations and price tags. Expectations with apps is so out of control thanks to the 60 minute piece on autism and Proloquo2go. Now everyone believes the answer lies in iPads and so called AAC apps. Sure the price tag is what attracts people, but what do you expect for 189 dollars? You get apps made by anyone qualified or unqualified, apps that make promises with zero accountability, and developers who could careless because they can easily start all of again with no reputation to worry about.
See a pathologist with a serious background in AAC and specifically find someone who can provide an unbiased assessment. The big company devices win every time and should because of research, evidence and trials.
This is what happens when you establish high expectations in an app. People stealing patent concepts and passing them off as their own. Shame on those women and the developers. Again, don't hate apple, don't hate PRC, hate the developers of the app.
Find another product with a great track record, not some yahoo SLPs thinking they know what's right.

Dana said...

"I will also gaurantee that the app is never going to be better, except for expectations and price tags."

This is a silly guarantee.

"Expectations with apps is so out of control thanks to the 60 minute piece on autism and Proloquo2go."

That 60 minutes piece was atrocious. I wrote about it back in October, when I boldly declared that no app would be good enough, we needed a dedicated device. This was before I evaluated the devices and was disappointed to find that they weren't a fit for us.

"Now everyone believes the answer lies in iPads and so called AAC apps. Sure the price tag is what attracts people, but what do you expect for 189 dollars?"

These blanket statements seriously undermine your points. We were ready to pay (with help from some family) out of pocket for a device. The money was not our concern, getting our kid a voice was our concern. We rejected the devices months before Speak for Yourself even existed, because AAC is NOT a one-size-fits-all system. SFY serves my daughter perfectly and can grow with her through adulthood. We would have paid the cost of a device to use this app if that's what we needed to do.

"See a pathologist with a serious background in AAC and specifically find someone who can provide an unbiased assessment. The big company devices win every time and should because of research, evidence and trials."

This is simply not true, based on the multiple pathologists and the ATP that we have worked with. Anyone educated in the field knows that a lot of AAC apps are just junk, but there are some that are research-based, developed with or by SLPs, that are quite excellent. The devices are simply essential for some people (eye-gaze, etc) but to think that anything running on an iPad is inferior is an old-school way of thinking that's on the way out.

Thanks for the comments.

Will said...

Hilarious and sad to see a PRC advocate trying to fight the trends of technology, instead we should all keep using a big $8000 device and not smaller cheaper devices with just as capable features. Push a button and it plays a word, ooh now that is highly unique. And very unprofessional to criticize a parent with a disabled child which most of us could not fathom the daily challenges.

Will said...

Hate the developers of the app? These people created an affordable, helpful solution. If it's so pathetic why are they being sued?

I have almost lost hope for humanity when people can criticize a mother and child who is a victim in this situation. And others are criticizing developers for creating a helpful app for society.

The PRC folks are trying to use morality plays when they are charging $8000 to a family to use their product? I know, let's screw over families that have disabled children and probably already have a lot of debt!

Anyone criticizing an iPad app that the family is happy with, is living in the past or is a paid representative of these companies. There's no other logical explanation.

Julius Schwartzenberg said...

Alistair, it seems you completely miss the point of the actual issue.

Nobody cares much about costs or patents. As long as there is *some* way to obtain the application in a reasonable way, this girl can continue to speak. If these parents could obtain unlimited access to this application by paying for a single patent license for a few hundred, likely even thousand, dollars they would gladly do it.

Right now however, they are facing the fact it my be impossible to obtain this application ever again *at all*. This is not just due to the patent issue, but also due to the way the iPad and iTunes infrastructure works.

Right now these parents depend on:
- having a working application
- having a compatible version of iOS for the application
- having hardware in working order compatible with this version of iOS

It's not at all sure whether any of these conditions can be full-filled in the future.

By having the full source code of the application, the parents will have the guarantee that they can always get in touch with someone, who could get the software running on a completely different platform. This is the only way to ensure unlimited access to the software. The requires the software to be free (as in speech).

Levi said...

Are you serious? Apple isn't the only tech major in the world, and SfY isn't the only special needs software either. If your favourite coffee shop shut down, I'm sure you'd be able to find another (after you blogged about the tragedy anyway).

If you hadn't been living under a rock for the last year, you'd know that apple itself is infamous for dealing with it's competitors in much the same fashion as SfY's competitors.

Robert said...

This is what life is like in a walled garden.

Dana said...

Levi, your comparison of switching AAC systems to changing coffee shops is telling of how much experience you've had working with these systems.

Also, the comments about choosing not to work with Apple, while interesting, are not very useful to us right now. This software has currently only been written (if I'm saying that right) to run on the iPad. Feedback as to alternative platforms would best be directed towards the creators of Speak for Yourself, as I have nothing to do with the design of the application.

As I've mentioned several times, this app is the gold standard for us. We searched for over a year to find the right system for Maya, and she loves this one. This is her voice. We will not take that away from her by switching her to something new unless we had no other option.

Missy said...

Levi, no need to resort to mean comments. If you knew this family, or read the blog, you would know of their struggles and the amount of time spent on therapies and finding resources for their daughter. They don't have the time or luxury to be "living under a rock for the last year".

Anonymous said...

Very sad story, but it really drives the point that Apple's overlord-style control over the App Store can have dangerous effects. On Android, you can easily side-load apps from any source without using the Store, so if your app gets pulled from the store the developer can still publish updates on their website or send updates through e-mail. Also, you can easily back up your apps so that even if they get dropped from the Store you still have a copy that nobody can take away.

Much better system if you ask me, as it puts the control in your hands, not Apple's. However, these software patents really need to die off. Sometimes there are cases where a specialized company becomes obsoleted by a more widely available product, and the only logical solution is that specialized company shut down or start working with the widely available product. It sickens me that companies charge thousands of thousands of dollars for a speaking device when a tablet with a low-cost app can do everything. Really shows how much said companies actually care about the people they're supposed to be helping.

Jinesh Parekh said...

We are really sad about this. Hence we have created a facebook page to support Maya.

We are going to dedicate entire week to spread the word and freeze our marketing activities. Our reach is not massive, but we will try to make the impact we can to help spread the awareness of the cause.

Like the page and help us spread the word out.

Abijan said...

Only in U$A you can have such stupid things as software patterns. Only in U$A you may have such a primitive application "protected."

But why at age of 4 your child cannot yet type and deal with a standard accessibility features?
Why she doesn't know a sign language as all other maims?

Sky S. said...

My husband makes apps for Iphone and Apple (actually for the hearing impaired).

We had the same situation happen. My husband made an app, and a company didn't like the name they write a cease and disist letter. So we took it down, renamed it to something else that didn't appear to have any infringements and put it right back up. You may want to contact the company and see if they plan on doing such.

Anonymous said...

Specialist companies such as PRC have pioneered AAC systems and don't have the marketing power or volumes to support Apple and 'copy cat' developers. Such companies are small in comparison to mainstream businesses and have specialised for more than 30 years in equipment for people who don't have functional speech. They are not the enemy. They invented these systems! If the App utilises their systems, presumably there is a Speech Generating Device from PRC that provides something close to what the App offers, and should be covered by government funding depending on your eligibility. These companies need support of their developments not attack. I have no association whatsoever with PRC but have worked in the AAC field for 30 years and followed the evolution of AAC systems from all companies. The ready availability of iPads and Apps and marketing power of Apple has over shadowed the 30 odd years of development in the assistive technology field. There have been some positive and some negative outcomes at an individual and general level. I am sure there would be a suitable alternative out there! Time to implement Plan B and maybe look to PRC or other specialist assistive technology company for the answer. A sense of fairness and redirected energy may be more productive than trying to bring into disrepute the company that it seems developed or contrbuted to the system that works so well in this case.

Dana said...

Anonymous @4:28: Looking into a PRC device was actually Plan A, as I explained in this post. Their devices were not a good fit for us, and they don't have anything similar to this app.

Abijan: I've explained why sign language is not an option in another post. Most 4 year olds can speak a huge variety of words that they can't spell, as most of them barely spell anything at 4. Typing is not a valid communication system for a pre-literate child, of course.

Anonymous said...

So, the $189 question is, where did the SLP's get their research from?

Please make a detailed list, so we can ALL see "the evidence" and how they came to their conclusions.

Did they pay for consultants to help? Were the consultants speech pathologists, design engineers, or parents?

Finally, did they consult and PAY the augmented communicators for their advice and show us the data for the beta testing that was done.

I'm sure the other AAC manufacturers -- Proloquo2go, TapSpeak and others would pay big bucks to have access to this data and the AAC users who helped.

Anonymous said...

World patent system is outdated. It prevents development in all ways. Greedy businessmans are evils !

Cross Stitch Girl said...

Heart-wrenching story!
I almost cried reading this. Can't you just not-sync her IPAD and keep the app on there forever if needed?
I hope you can find a way!

Richard Stallman said...

Software patents put all software developers in danger, and this is an example. (See A software patent is the immediate cause of this nastiness, but what gave it the opportunity to do so is something even nastier: Apple's unjust power over the iThings.

What put Apple in a position to decide whether you can get this app?
The system software of the iThings is malicious, set up to let Apple decide what programs users can install. Apple practices arbitrary censorship, and not just in this instance.

What put Apple in a position to remotely delete this app? Another malicious feature, called a "back door", which is designed to let Apple remotely delete installed apps.

The iThings are designed as jails for their users. Gilded jails, but still jails. You were lured in by the gilding, but now you see the door shutting. Now you know what that product really is.

If you want to fight against this, sign up at

Meanwhile, suppose the company that made the app loses the lawsuit or settles it with an agreement not to distribute that app. That too would stop you from ever getting another copy. Why is this? Because the program is proprietary software, controlled by that company and not by its users.

What we need is to replace that program with free/libre software, software controlled by its users. When users can redistribute a program, it is harder for any sort of tyrannical system to control its use.

Anonymous said...

This gives another means to "The Language Stealers" --

Is it ASHA approved to do what these SLP's have done?

Does the cat have your tongue?

Anonymous said...

I heard the SLPs came up with a new ground breaking. The new SFY: Mind Typing and PC Control with Brain-Computer Interface (BCI)

Good job! I can't wait to see their data.

Bery C.P. said...

I heard the SLPs came up with a new ground breaking. The new SFY: Mind Typing and PC Control with Brain-Computer Interface (BCI). It prevents development in all ways. Greedy businessmans are evils !

Anonymous said...

Robin Hoods or SLPs?:

Stealing from the Rich and Giving to the Poor
"All stealing is comparative. If you come to absolutes, pray who does not steal?" (Ralph Waldo Emerson).   Let's be honest, once an innocent man becomes introduced to the idea of free music, software, movies, and other expensive items, he'll get attached forever.   Kleptomaniacs are created every day as more and more join the "warez scene," a global reference to the collection of warez groups.   "Warez" was coined to indicate more than one piece of pirated software and refers primarily to copyrighted material traded in violation of copyright law (Warez).   Despite internet piracy exploding recently as a world wide industry, it is being frowned upon as well as illegal in most countries; although, it will never be completely hindered due to the mass number of violators.
The law varies throughout the world, however, there are four elements of criminal copyright infringement that are universal: the existence of a valid copyright, the copyright was infringed, the infringement was willful, and the infringement was either for commercial gain or substantial gain (Warez).   The law behind internet piracy in the U.S. falls under the Copyright Act of 1976 which gives the author the exclusive right to reproduce, display, distribute, and sell his original work.   It is part of the Federal law and is authorized by the United States Constitution.   The power to enact copyright law is granted in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, also known as the Copyright Clause, which states: The Congress shall have Power [. . .] To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries (Article One of the United States Constitution).
The growth of computer network communications, especially the global internet, has made illegal copying of expensive easy and nearly untraceable (Piracy).   One of the biggest examples of this was "Napster."   "Napster" was a nickname given by friends to Shawn...

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to say that that's what you get for buying Apple. Apple provides the most closed ecosystem of any software provider. You get quality, for the most part, but you pay for it with "control".

Next time choose a more open ecosystem if possible and support it with your dollars, yen, euro's....

John Wilson said...

Hi Dana,

I'm saddened that you and Maya are stuck in the second round of this rather pointless patent dispute.

When I first heard of this, thanks to Techdirt, I was outraged. I still am.

I can't see how Apple could remove or would remove Maya's app but, as some have suggested perhaps the best way to do it is off line with a backup. If Maya responds better with the wider Internet on, then you may need to get into a backup and reinstall cycle till this stupidity passes.

This company is no more protecting their patent than I am mowing my lawn at the moment. This is an abuse of what patent law was intended to be. If they are so concerned they could have worked with the app writers and YOU to work something out for Maya before they locked horns again. This isn't big guy vs little guy with no innocents hurt. This is another illustration of the sue first, worry later, if at all, about the damage you cause. It's certainly a violation of their corporate slogan and mission statement.

Hang in there, my prayers and thoughts are with you, Maya and your family.

pubblicita said...

I hope to God that people read this and comprehend how devastating this could be

Habib Ahmed Bhutto said...

I want to help Maya, Could you please contact me? I will give you the APP.

The great personalities who are looking for such solution. Kindly do contact me.

I will develop the solution.

Anonymous said...

What Kind of Stealing Is Wrong?
When a person takes something that belongs to somebody else without permission, that is stealing. The stolen object can be as small as a piece of candy or as big as a car. It can be taken from someone a person knows or from a stranger. It can be taken from a store, a kind of stealing called shoplifting, or from someone's home. But either way, it's stealing.

People can steal words and ideas, too. For instance, if someone takes your book report and tells the teacher that she — not you — wrote it, that's another form of stealing. Imagine how upset you would be if that happened to you!

Anonymous said...

Stealing causes a whole bunch of problems. Suppose a kid sees a pen in a store and decides to take it. If she gets caught, the store owner might say she's not allowed in the store again. The owner might tell her parents. She may have to give money to pay for the pen and the police could be called because stealing (including shoplifting) is a crime. She could be arrested, especially if she has stolen before, and that could lead to more problems. She may have to go to court and may have some sort of punishment, like having to do work in the community to make up for what she has done.

Anonymous said...

If you know someone who steals, you shouldn't just shrug it off. That's like saying stealing is OK. You can tell the person that stealing is wrong or that you're concerned about him, but he may get angry with you. It's a good idea to tell a parent, teacher, counselor, or other adult that you trust. Then leave it up to the adult to decide how to handle the situation.

Don't hang out with kids who steal. It's not smart to go along with someone just because he's your friend or because you don't want to be left out. Follow your conscience (say: con-shens), and don't do anything that would hurt others. Do what you know is right. If someone is caught stealing, you could get in trouble just because you were there with him when it happened.

Dana said...

Anonymous @ 8:06---

The courts will decide if there was stealing. If so, monetary sanctions/licensing fees should definitely apply. I support PRC's right to take legal action if they feel like their intellectual property has been "stolen."

What I do not support is their choice to preemptively jeopardize the app and the voices of my child, and all of the others, who are relying on it. That is not due process.

Anonymous said...

Some kids who steal once might do it a second and third time, until it becomes a habit. Repeat stealers often act in other bad ways, too. They may lie, fight, cheat, or write graffiti. They might ignore rules and disrespect other people and their belongings.

But even if stealing has become a habit, kids who steal can change their ways. Kids sometimes make mistakes, but there are ways to get back on the right track. Kids can ask adults to help them. Parents, counselors, and other adults can help kids with troubles that may have led them to steal in the first place. Kids can learn right from wrong, get better at self-control, and learn to solve problems without stealing.

When kids are honest and follow what they know is right, they feel happier and a whole lot better about themselves. Learning how to get what they need — without stealing — can be a big relief.

Anonymous said...

This is a tough one. Kids, when backed into a corner will always lie to get out of a punishment. It's what kids do. As adults, we need to be aware of this and not back our kids into a corner.

I always tell my kids "Johnson kids don't lie. Johnson kids don't steal. Johnson kids are well behaved" (not our real name). This is giving them positive input about the kind of person you desire them to become. sooner or later they will believe what you tell them.

If depriving him of play station games don't have any lasting impact. you are taking the wrong thing off him. either that or he has far too many toys. You need to find the thing that is his currency, what he will pine after if you take it off him.

But make sure that the punishment is short (one or two weeks max). Don't drag it out forever with a child. show them that it is all over and dealt with after a while. and then stop talking about it.

Lori said...

I have 2 comments:
I understand your frustration. I have a child with CP. Fortunately, he is verbal, but speech is difficult for him. It is not always possible for our kids to get the "ideal" piece of equipment. I am currently engaged in an insurance battle over the proper software for my son's device. I hope we win. I hope you do too.

Second, Prentke Romich is the company we are going through to purchase my son's device. I'm not happy that they are playing hardball with an insignificant (to them) iPad app. I will call them tomorrow and let them know that as a customer who is about to spend 10K with their company I'm not pleased with this situation.

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