Each app in the iOS App Store must go through Apple’s notorious approval process.
Previously known for its heavy ban hammer, Apple is now earning a reputation for being lax and letting a myriad of cloned and counterfeit apps into the App Store. According to reports from Develop and Ars Technica, the latest titles to raise suspicion are a pair of Pokémon apps, one from developer Jonathan Milanovic and another from House of Anime.
In both cases, the apps are present in the iOS App Store in the game category and have gotten the attention of customers. One app, Pokémon Pocket Edition by Milanovic, was not even a game, but merely a gallery of Pokémon photos. Customers were understandably angry when they realized they paid $5 for a bunch of images. After the Develop article was published, Milanovic pulled the app because people misunderstood what they were buying. He told Develop, “I did note that it was only a gallery, and supported this by listing the game in ‘book’ section on the App Store.”
The other app, House of Anime’s Yellow Pokémon, debuted this weekend and climbed as high as No. 3 on the App Store’s paid apps chart. It, too, is the recipient of many stinging comments, criticizing the app because its doesn’t work. As Ars Technica points out, this game uses screenshots and characters taken directly from Nintendo’s Pokémon series. It’s not just inspired by Pokémon, it’s a blatant ripoff of Nintendo’s popular franchise.
These titles slipped through Apple’s review process because Apple apparently relies on the copyright owners to police the app store for infringing titles. Apple looks for technical issues with apps, but not copyright infringement. When you think about it, the company is in a similar position as YouTube, which also struggles with users who upload infringing content. Just like YouTube, the app store is so big, that Apple can’t adequately police existing and incoming titles.
Until Apple develops a tool or improves it manual method to scan submissions for infringement, it will be the responsibility of developers and copyright holders to keep a watchful eye for clones and ripoff titles. Hopefully, when a copyright owner brings a knockoff app to Apple’s attention, Apple will step up its policing and remove the title promptly.