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Jobs’ Personal, Terse Reply to Developer

Gotta love that Steve Jobs. He never was one to hold back, and even now, when he’s the CEO of the Universe (or something like that), he won’t be found spouting corporate speak.

CrunchGear tells the story of a small software development company called The Little App Factory. It made an app for the Mac called iPodRip, one of those tools for transferring music from an iPod to a computer. A law firm representing Apple sent The Little App Factory a letter, informing the company it had violated some of Apple’s trademarks, and instructed it to stop using the “iPod” bit in the app’s name.

iPodRip has been around for nearly seven years and CrunchGear’s Daniel Brusilovsky says it has been downloaded more than five million times. You’d think Apple’s legal sniffer hounds, Baker & McKenzie, might have acted a tad sooner…

Anyway, iPodRip developer and The Little App Factory CEO John Devor felt this was all rather unfair, so he wrote directly to El Jobso himself. Here’s a little excerpt from his impassioned plea for special treatment sanity (edited by me for brevity, but you can read the whole thing here);

Dear Mr. Jobs,

I doubt you’re aware but we recently received a letter from a law firm working on Apple’s behalf instructing us that we had violated several of Apple’s trademarks in our application iPodRip and asking us to cease using the name and Apple trademarks in our icons.

It is quite obvious that we mean Apple no harm with the use of the name iPodRip, or of the inclusion of trademarked items in our icons… …we are quite aware that Apple support and store staff have recommended our software on numerous occasions as far back as 2004 so we have felt that we were doing something right!

With this in mind, we are in desperate need of some assistance and we beseech you to help us to protect our product and our shareware company, I myself dropped out of school recently to pursue a path in the Mac software industry, and you yourself have been a consistent inspiration for me.

If there is anything at all you can do with regards to this matter, we would be most grateful.

John Devor

Poor fellow. Obviously he has poured his heart and soul into his company, and he has worked hard this last half-decade building a strong brand and large customer base. He wants to protect his investment, and why not? Apple has, it seems, been aware of the product, to some degree, for an awfully long time, so why slap him with a C&D letter now?

So Steve Jobs gets the email and thinks about this, right? He considers the years of service this guy and his company have provided for iTunes users around the world. He considers carefully the late-in-the-game complaint from Baker & McKenzie. He feels a swell of pride at the obvious passion of those in the Mac development community who so loyally support his products and strive to make the Mac ecosystem a bigger, brighter and more worthwhile place to be. Right?

Of course not. He’s Steve Jobs, people! This is his reply:

Change your apps name. Not that big of a deal.


Sent from my iPhone

I nearly fell off my chair in laughter when I saw that. I’m not sure I agree with him that’s it’s “not that big of a deal” (after all, this company has invested many years in their brand and built a considerable customer base) but I admire Steve’s no-nonsense attitude. He says exactly what’s on his mind, no PR-spin, and sends it straight from his iPhone, typos-and-all.

The Little App Factory acquiesced (what else could it do?) and renamed the app iRip. It also changed the app’s icon. Perhaps this whole affair was a thorn in the side, but I don’t feel too sorry for them, the tech press is giving them a lot of attention right now, and that’s gotta be good for business, right?

38 Responses to “Jobs’ Personal, Terse Reply to Developer”

  1. , that was a very good post. I was actually just browsing the web for project work and come across your . I’m easily distracted, which must be why I can’t find a job. :) I’ll be sure to more of your .

  2. For those of you with any memory of Apple and trademarks, I give you the following:

    “Change the iPhone’s name. It’s someone else’s trademark. Not that big of a deal.”


  3. Bosch's Poodle

    iPod is trademarked. Apple may not have noticed the problem before, but so what? It’s trademarked. The app’s name has to be changed. Jobs’s email was correct. Not that big of a deal and the developer was frankly a little naive if he thought he was going to talk Apple into doing him a favor and open the door to a billion other apps that wish to use trademarked Apple product names.

  4. Wrong. No douche.

    Jobs has given them a lot of publicity by replying at all – they would clearly ( and he would know they would) have the right to disperse his terse reply to the Mac blogpshere, and I bet iRip is selling like hotcakes, and is immediately rebranded. I never heard of iPodRip.

    So good work all round.

  5. What is there to admire here? Who cares if Steve “spoke his mind”. Unlike most people, Steve Jobs *can* speak his mind. He’s a multibillionaire and one of the most powerful people on the planet. Moreover, people fall all over themselves to defend everything he does.

    The sad thing is that he doesn’t apparently have anything interesting to say. His response isn’t some maverick speaking truth to “the man”. Steve Jobs *is* “the man”!

    What a douche.

  6. If you don’t defend your trademark at every offense, future offenders can establish that there was a precedent of trademark abuse and that they should not be held responsible for damages. It reminds me of the old MacOS 9 Simpsons icons that Fox put an end to. Its not that the offender is intending harm, its that they are demonstrating that the trademark has not been defended. I’m not a lawyer, but I know one well.

    Change your apps name… it *really* isn’t that big of a deal. Look at all of the free press you got!

  7. If I were smart enough to have come up with a wildly popular app like their’s I would never have put iPod in the name. That is, by definition, a lawsuit waiting to happen.

    Furthermore the dev’s email was heartfelt and appropriately pleading. Steve’s email was succinct (he’s busy man) and straight to the point. They don’t have a problem with the app, only their copyrighted product name in its title. What would have been sweet, is if they sent him an edible arrangement with a check for a couple grand in it. Isn’t that what everyone wants??!

  8. artMonster

    @Howie: Read Revolution in the Valley by Andy Hertzfeld; Bud Tribble is quoted as saying that just because Steve dismisses something, doesn’t mean he won’t later change his mind. But he will take full credit for it.

  9. Howie Isaacks

    I emailed Steve once to complain about my not liking the way Stacks worked in the newly released Leopard. I also told Steve that I hated the translucent menu bar. The reply that I got back was exactly the same kind of reply that Mr. Devor received. Interestingly enough, the problems that I had with Stacks and the menu bar were resolved later on. Maybe Steve did listen after all :)

  10. Steve is, always has been, and always will be, a huge douchebag. Successful? Yes. Responsible for saving Apple? Yes. Responsible for changing the face of computing? Yes. But nonetheless, a huge royal douchebag. Tons of people worship him, and would love to be his “bud”, but they don’t realize couldn’t care less about any of them…funny.

  11. A terse reply is exactly what he should have received. I’m glad to see that’s what he got. Did he really think creating a product with iPod in the name would not draw legal attention from Apple?

    • nikolaus heger

      It’s great all around.

      The Little App Factory gets tons of free press. That should make up for the two people in the world who can’t find the app anymore after it’s been renamed.

      And Apple is saving some legal costs.

      Everyone wins. SJ is a genius.

  12. While I admire Jobs’ being upfront like that, I disagree that it’s “not that big of a deal.” I’m sick of companies’ legal departments sending C&Ds for every little reason, for things only tangentially related to a trademark. Yes, obviously you don’t want other companies trying to sell MP3 players with the iPod name; that’s what trademark law is for. It’s not for sledgehammering products that nobody in their right mind would confuse. Things have gone too far, and there needs to be some more legislation to prevent this sort of behavior.

    I don’t hold this against Jobs, as he was almost certainly unaware, and has more important things to worry about. But I don’t think the people who sent the C&D should be in the legal “business” if this is their usual mode of operation.

    • Perhaps, but not only does it not have to work that way, that guideline doesn’t apply to other industries in many cases.

      This is how we have Linux shampoo, Google toilet paper, and Apple Inc./Apple Records.

      The only real exception is when a company is in a wide range of industries, or with merchandised franchises such as movies or the like.

      That said, the U.S. (and the world in general) needs some serious IP reform.

  13. It’s not like the iPod name issue hasn’t come up time and time again in the past. Obviously, Apple had simply overlooked it in the past. The guy should have known better.

    No doubt, it should be iRipPod. But a quick email to all registered customers should do the trick for letting them know their product is available.

    I think I’ll consider buying a copy just to support them. (And I could probably use it anyway.)

  14. I am confident that Steve is probably a very very busy man, it’s amazing that he even replied. to some it may seem insensitive, to some maybe not. It’s business people get over it!!!! He’s not the successful man he is today because he replies to emails, ” oh okay John. I feel so terribly bad for you, ohh you poor little thing, no problem you can use our patented name for you product” hahaha

  15. I think most macfolks already have known about iPodRip for as long as Apple’s legal department. If we needed to get back to The Little App Factory site we still could find it and then see that the name is changed. Not a big deal to me.

    The upshot for Little App Factory is the free press! Free marketing and new company name recognition, maybe some sympathy sales and exposure for their other apps: RipIt and Evom.

    Could be the best thing that happened to them.

  16. Well I didn’t like Steve’s comment and his total disregard for the developer’s truthful case. He appears to be quite cold blooded in his response. To look at funny side, may be Steve wanted to type a long reply but since iPhone doesn’t have a physical keyboard, its not easy to type long emails so he just managed to key that short response :-)

  17. I do like the fact that we know he’s still a human being. I see the devs side as it has mentioned in the article nearly a decade of building a brand. But as Steve says not that big of a deal, well it is and it isn’t. Now the dev has a customer base, and a product they cant sell with the brand they built. But on the devs side they should have done a bit more research into trademark laws and built their brand properly. I’ve used the product its great, but the point of the matter is, Apple owns the trademark so deal with the repercussions.