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Attack of the iTunes App Store "name-squatters"!

19 Sep 2011  |  Tags: , , , ,

UPDATE (2012/06/28): Finally, Apple has changed their algorithms and most of these results have been pushed to the bottom, thankfully…. http://techcrunch.com/2012/06/29/looks-like-apple-has-changed-its-app-store-algorithm-again/

A new spam-tactic is being used on the iTunes Store to score downloads sourced from your competitor’s predating traffic. That tactic (which is against Apple’s Terms of Service, but extremely difficult to enforce) … is adding trailing punctuation.

It seems the rules only apply specifically to exclamation marks or spacing at this point, but I’m expecting that to change very soon.

Explanation + example

I run a site called Mobile17 (as many of you know), and although we were later to the game than some of our competitors in the App Store, we’ve been in the ringtone making business since 2005. Our Apps were released under the brand “Ringtone Maker" in 2010, and we’ve seen success ever since by utilizing our existing web traffic and also the organic traffic from the iTunes App Store and subsequent press.

Ringtone Maker by Mobile17

Recently, a slew of competition has prompted confusion in the App Storeas our competitors have released similar Apps under similar names using what’s called the “punctuation trick”. Generally, a developer adds a period, plus sign, or even a fake trademark symbol to bypass iTunes’ own algorithm for checking and assuring the App’s name is not already taken. This is why you don’t see 10 “Facebook” Apps on the App Store, aside from trademark issues.

Ringtone Makers on the iTunes App Store

Unfortunately, my complaints to the App Store, so far, have gone like this:

Thank you for contacting iTunes Connect.  You cannot use an app name that is substantially similar to an existing app name by adding or removing spaces, exclamation points or other characters. If you see this happening you can use this link to report the issue:

http://itunesconnect.apple.com/WebObjects/iTunesConnect.woa/wa/jumpTo?page=contactUs&contactfaq=rightsinfringement 

Of course, I’d asked if this behavior was acceptable. However, being that legal only handles copyright and trademark disputes, I was told that I could only file a DMCA complaint and that was it.

Meanwhile, during the process of trying to sort this out, yet another competitor has released Apps using the trademark sign and other punctuation as a differentiator:

Another ringtone maker

Is Apple about to face a viral outbreak of third-party developers, squatting traffic and App names? Will this soon be a headache for more developers? — I truly hope that they will step in and clean up this trailing punctuation, before it’s too late.

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