Speak for Yourself vs Giant Corporation: Round 2
Speak for Yourself is an app that’s become very popular with SLPs working with non-verbal clients. Created by two SLPs, the app sells for $299 and verbalizes words chosen from images on the screen, allowing non-verbal users to communicate in a meaningful way by touch.
In March, the app and its creators came under fire for alleged patent violation. Prentke Romich Company (PRC) and Semantic Compaction Systems (SCS) filed suit, claiming that the software poaches the patent on their assistive communications devices – that run in the thousands of dollars range.
Apple takes a stand
This David and Goliath story took an ugly turn in June, when Apple pulled the app from its iTunes store. Here’s what happened. The companies, PRC and SCS, contacted Apple and requested that the app be pulled. Apple contacted SfY creators Heidi LoStracco and Renee Collender for a response. Their lawyer responded with a detailed explanation about why the case has no merit and pointed out that PRC and SCS have not filed for or been granted an injunction against sale of the app. Months later, Speak for Yourself was pulled from iTunes. Apple informed SfY that they removed the app because the case wasn’t resolved…in less than 6 months? What case has ever been resolved in 6 months?
For parents of non-verbal children who cannot afford to lay out thousands of dollars for a specialized device that may or may not work for their child, this lawsuit is a devastating blow. While $299 is off-budget for some parents, it’s an attainable goal. For some, several thousand dollars might as well be a trip to the moon. It’s never going to be achievable.
PRC does not offer an app or interface for any device other than their own, so it seems what they are claiming is that they own the idea of image-to-speech touch technology. Ironically, the motto of the company frantically trying to deny a voice to lower income families (who would never be their customers anyway) is “We Believe Everyone Deserves a Voice.”
Parents fight back
Dana Nieder author of a popular special-need parenting blog, Uncommon Sense, has spoken out repeatedly about this issue and the amazing effect Speak for Yourself has had on her little girl. She, and many other special needs caregivers who depend on the program to communicate with non-verbal children, worry that the program will be disabled or that updates won’t be available for download as their child’s knowledge grows and needs increase.
To voice your opinion on this subject: