Presselite’s iTunes dirty tricks campaign targets Malcolm Barclay

Malcolm Barclay is a well known and respected developer of such brilliant applications as Tube Status, NextBuses, Tube Deluxe and London Bus. Chances are if you live in the UK, you either have one of his applications or you’re standing next to someone who does.

Recently, Malcolm was a little shocked to find that a competing developer — Presselite — had more or less duplicated his London Tube Deluxe icon, thus:

Malcolm’s London Tube Deluxe is the app above. Presselite’s one is below.

That’s a bit too similar, no?

Especially given their old icon looked like this:

Malcolm wrote a post on his blog highlighting what’s been going on.

Presselite didn’t just copy his London Tube Deluxe icon. Oh no. They went to town on his London Bus app too!

That’s Malcolm’s app first, at the top. You’ll see they’ve decided to use his London Tube Deluxe icon for their app. As Malcolm points out, this kind of behaviour does — sadly — work. Remember that he’s got 2 years of goodwill stored up from hundreds of thousands of users who all recognise his London Tube Deluxe app based on it’s icon. Which Presselite copied. For both travel apps.

For a brief moment (several weeks plus) the application sells a lot more. Together with the rating being rigged & Presselite’s stealing of my icon their London Bus application went from well outside the top 20 in UK Travel & rocketed up to No.10 in a matter of days.

I could feel poor Malcolm going absolutely nuts with the next move by Presselite: They decided to claim their London Tube app was the original, top selling tube app in their description.

Here’s what Malcolm had to say on that issue:

They are now telling everyone in the app descriptions that together with the copied icon their apps are the ‘Original’ versions. For example:

“London Bus is the original and top selling application for getting around London.”

“London Tube is the original and top selling application for getting around London.”

London Bus is not a top selling application nor the original. Its current position in the charts is the result of copying my icon for Tube Deluxe and rigging the rating. In Presselite’s description they say London Bus is ‘comprehensive’; it covers 26 routes of very inner city London only (even then not all of them), there are more than 750 bus routes in London. London Journey Planner & my London Bus app were out well before Presselite released their comprehensive con.

Once again yet another prime example of Presselites stupidity, lying & deceiving tactics in the iTunes App Store.

You’d think Apple’s App Store editors would see this nonsense happening, wouldn’t you?

What happened next?

Well, Malcolm got tough:

I have instructed my lawyers to send a cease & desist letter to Presselite regarding their blantant copying of my London Tube Deluxe icon. They now have this, as do Apple.

8 days later, Presselite changed their London Tube & London Bus icons to something else. And a further 14 days later, their London Tube for iPad app has had it’s icon changed.

Not before they managed to sell a heck of a lot of apps.

This kind of behaviour really doesn’t appeal to me at all. Yes I’m all for capitalism; but underhanded bullshit like claiming your application is the first and original — when it clearly isn’t — no, that’s not good at all.

I’m pleased that the matter is resolved.

But if you’re a mobile developer, do watch for other competitors aiming to pass off their app with yours.

Really bad form, Presselite.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

9 replies on “Presselite’s iTunes dirty tricks campaign targets Malcolm Barclay”

I have to say, while the article implies that this was deliberate, I somehow doubt it was. Both Malcolm and Presselite used the London Transport maps as inspiration, which seems reasonable, and it’d be quite possible to come up with these icons entirely independently.

Nor do I think Malcolm should have some kind of monopoly on this kind of icon, since the design was copied from somewhere else, namely London Transport.

If it had been a totally unique design, I would have more sympathy, but the fact is that it isn’t, and that both developers lifted the design from the most obvious place.

I *hate* to disagree… But I'll do so any way 🙂

The logos are demonstrably different. Different colours, different shapes, different placement of circles.

The only thing they share in common is they've *both* copied TfL's designs.

Presslite calling their app “original” is disingenuous, sure. But I think it's a bit cheeky of Malcolm to complain about his logo being ripped off when his is, arguably, a rip-off of TfL's branding.

Hmm, I think Terence brings up a very good point. Isn't a copy of a copy just as bad as the copy to begin with? If the logo was designed from scratch, and then copied it would obviously be a no brainer.

Oh, and just a small grumble from me… The UK doesn't just comprise of London as your opening paragraph, and the subject of this blog post would maybe suggest.

I agree that it's using TFL designs and they could (perhaps even should) feel like they're being ripped off, or that the app was a genuine TFL app.

But the Presslite icon is clearly very similar to Malcolm's (despite different colours / lines / position) – it would be (coupled with a competing product) a blatant case of passing-off (which is why they're apparently changing their icon designs).

Whenever a company copies another so closely it's a clear sign that they have a poor product and lack originality and clear thinking.

Personally, I think TFL should jump up and down a bit and release a genuine one (if they haven't already for free / small fee) and tell them both to stop using their IP in their marketing.

There was an official TfL app written 18 months ago to combat this sort of thing, however due to a number of reasons which I can't go into in this post it wasn't released. The TfL content is now available to all (well nearly all), which enables people to develop these type of applications, so no need for an official app now I guess.

I'd like to address some of the good points raised…

My problem with Presselite is that of 'Passing off' ( not copyright or trademark infringement (very different).

A good example of Passing off I like to use is this; lets say a health & beauty shop opens up near ‘The Body Shop’ (a well know store & brand founded by the brilliant late Dame Anita Roddick), they paint their store front in a dark green and call themselves ‘The Body Store’ and even write the text in a completely different font to that of The Body Shop. This is Passing off. It would be reasonable to expect that the public could be confused into thinking that The Body Store is somehow connected to The Body Shop, or simply think they are one & the same. Using the goodwill of an established brand, The Body Store is passing off as The Body Shop, and creating enough confusion to gain from.

Obviously The Body Shop can not really claim copyright or trademark infringement over the colour green (although some brands have been successful making such assertions in particular situations). But they can accuse The Body Store of Passing off. Celebrities often use this law for enforcing unauthorised use of their likeness for all manner things (notably, product endorsements they were never even contracted to & paid for).

What Presselite did was no mistake, they deliberately created two icons designed to mimic that of Tube Deluxe, they did not arrive at their new icon choice by accident, they have been well aware of Tube Deluxe since its release in Jan 2009. Using the recognisable goodwill & identity of Tube Deluxe, which has had 280,000+ downloads & 6 months development work poured into it, they attempted to deceive the public into thinking that their apps were somehow connected to mine for their own gain. I sort expert legal advice on the matter.

…but the icon is 'not really yours' anyway, you just used a slice of the Underground map. This is essentially the argument Presselite tried to use to justify their use of their 'new' icon after being told they could not use the TfL logo anymore. True, my icon uses tiny part of the TfL map and I do not dispute that the London Underground map is restricted by copyright or that such rights are enjoyed by TfL (I pay several thousand pounds a year to use a range of the TfL maps). However, copyright restricts works to a substantial part or whole of the work. I am definitely not trying assert any monopoly on the Underground map nor preclude anyone else from even making & using exactly the same icon. Provided it did not confuse the public into connecting such an identity with Tube Deluxe.

Putting the argument another way, one has to ask themselves; why would Presselite want to even create an icon that bears any similarity to Tube Deluxe? I am working on a new app right now, there are others in the store that do the same thing, I am going out of my way to ensure my icon does not look like theirs. Why did Presselite not do the same?

It's interesting to note that now Presselite have moved on from passing off my application, they have just created a similar icon to that of the Underground logo, the one they were told to stop using in the first place.

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