Apple Watch's New Swipe Keyboard Results in a Shocking Lawsuit

For many years, the main downside to the Apple Watch has been its controls. The debut of a new keyboard was enthusiastically greeted by most Apple fans. However, it turns out that a dark secret might have been hiding behind the keyboard. Some shocking allegations were just revealed in a brand new lawsuit.

Lawsuit Has Its Origins in a 2018 App Dispute

The most recent Apple lawsuit started in 2018 when Kosta Eleftheriou's app first became popular. Eleftheriou was an independent developer who created an app for the Apple Watch. FlickType was a swiping based keyboard that made it easy to send messages or write notes on the tiny Apple screen. In January of 2019, Eleftheriou was invited to demo the keyboard for the Apple Watch team.

During this meeting, both senior engineers and heads of keyboard development expressed approval over how seamlessly the keyboard worked. However, that evening, Apple sent Eleftheriou a message saying they were removing his app from the App Store. Apple stated that FlickType broke their terms of service because keyboard apps for Apple Watch were not allowed. At this time, they told Eleftheriou any appeals he made would be rejected.

Even more oddly, just a few months later, Apple allowed other Apple Watch keyboards, such as Shift Keyboard, to debut in their store. Even partner apps that incorporated Eleftheriou's keyboard, such as Chirp for Twitter, were allowed to remain in the App Store. According to Apple, they briefly decided to ban all keyboards, then realized it was a mistake and changed their mind.. Eleftheriou tells a different story.

Apple Was In Talks to Purchase Eleftheriou's App

In the lawsuit that Eleftheriou filed in March of 2021, he says his app was not initially banned due to indecisive Apple policies. Instead, he alleges that the company specifically targeted his app. When he first demoed the product for Apple, employees expressed an interest in buying the app. However, just a few hours after people were saying they might buy it, the company prevented Eleftheriou from selling the app in their store, while still allowing other similar but less well-designed apps.

In his lawsuit, Eleftheriou states that this was a deliberate business practice meant to undervalue his app, so Apple could buy it for a bargain price. He says that the company meant to use their influence to pressure him into giving up and selling the app cheaply. The lawsuit points out that when Apple did finally allow FlickType back in their store in 2020, the app made a whopping $130,000 in just a month. Therefore, Eleftheriou is suing Apple for the lost revenue from the months when other apps were allowed but his was not.

Eleftheriou Claims Apple Went On to Plagiarize His App

The lawsuit took a drastic turn on Tuesday when Apple revealed that the Apple Watch Series 7 would have a built in keyboard app. This app has some shocking similarities to the FlickType app. In addition to using the same swipe functionality as Eleftheriou's app, the new Apple keyboard also has a similar layout and interface.

Eleftheriou has been quick to comment on the similarities. Right after the new Apple keyboard was released, he wrote a tweet saying, "So now we know. See you in court, Apple." Other technological experts have weighed in, calling the new app a "one for one" copy of FlickType. Though Eleftheriou has not announced a new lawsuit for the plagiarism, it will definitely have a big impact on his current lawsuit. The fact that Apple seems to have copied his app may help support his claims their temporary decision to ban keyboards was targeted to prevent Eleftheriou from rolling out his app.

More People Speak Out Against "Sherlocking"

This new lawsuit has brought more negative attention to Apple. In the past, Apple has already faced a lot of claims of copying its new innovations from small time app developers. This practice is often called "Sherlocking" to refer to the case when Apple copied features from an app called Watson and then released their own version called Sherlock.

Altogether, this is a very complicated legal field. It is fairly common for developers to get inspiration from each other, but at a certain point, this inspiration can become outright copying. It can be hard to prove these claims in cases where it is a small developer against a major corporation, but more awareness may be able to highlight the issue.

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