The Latest in Apps: Speak for Yourself
Educational apps can help your child expand his vocabulary, improve his articulation skills, and learn how to use complete sentences. Some apps even function as augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices, giving a voice to nonverbal children and those with limited speech. One of these AAC apps, Speak for Yourself, is in the middle of a patent dispute that threatens to eliminate this means of communication for nonverbal children.
Who: Apple Inc., the company that produced the app, and Prentke Romich Co., together with Semantic Compaction Systems (PRC/SCS).
What: PRC/SCS have filed a patent lawsuit alleging that Apple is guilty of patent infringement and copyright infringement.
Why: PRC/SCS have taken issue with Speak for Yourself’s use of multiple meanings associated with one icon. For example, an apple could represent “red” or “eat.”
Earlier this year, PRC/SCS filed a joint lawsuit against Speak for Yourself and its creators, claiming patent infringement. In June of 2012, the two companies expanded the lawsuit to include copyright infringement. The lawsuit argues that Speak for Yourself “is substantially similar to” the technology used by PRC/SCS. In turn, Speak for Yourself argued that not only does the app not use the multiple meaning technology, it also does not violate copyright or patent law because Speak for Yourself is an iPad app. PRC/SCS technology is not available for use on iPads.
While the companies are duking it out in court, the Speak for Yourself app has been pulled from Apple’s iTunes store. If you were lucky enough to download the app before it was pulled, you can continue to use it. However, it may become outdated and incompatible as new updates are added to the iPad. New customers are prohibited from purchasing the app indefinitely.
Speak for Yourself was available for $299. The least expensive application offered by Prentke retails for $2,595, while a more expensive device is nearly $8,000. Parents often struggle financially to make sure that their child receives adequate speech therapy and any other needed treatments. Speak for Yourself offered a much more affordable option for parents of children with speech disorders.
The parents of 4-year-old Maya Nieder were upset to learn that the app that Maya depends upon for communication is under fire. Little Maya has trouble saying even a single word because of her weak oral motor muscles. She relies on Speak for Yourself both at home and at her special needs preschool. Maya’s mother, Dana Nieder, began blogging about the issue at Uncommon Sense. Her family’s story quickly went viral, and Nieder started an online petition to keep the app available for her daughter and others without a voice of their own.