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Once Banned, Special Needs App To Return


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A months-long legal battle over an iPad app designed to give voice to nonverbal individuals with disabilities is nearing an end.

Earlier this year, assistive technology maker Prentke Romich Company sued the creators of a text-to-speech app called Speak for Yourself alleging that the product violated patents held by the company and Semantic Compaction Systems. The legal action led Apple to pull the app from its store.

The app’s creators defended their product calling the allegations “baseless” and a group of parents came to their aid, criticizing Prentke Romich for threatening access to a tool that they said offered their children with disabilities a voice. Ultimately, three families of individuals using Speak for Yourself moved to intervene in the court case and a parent-led online petition urging the return of the app garnered nearly 5,500 signatures.

Now the two sides have reached an agreement. Under a settlement announced last week, the speech-language pathologists behind Speak for Yourself have agreed to license two patents and certain copyrights from Semantic Compaction Systems. In exchange, the lawsuit has been dropped, paving the way for the app to hit the market again. Further terms of the deal were not released.

The app’s creators — Heidi LoStracco and Renee Collender — say they expect Speak for Yourself to return to Apple’s App Store soon. A version for Google devices had also been pulled and should become available for purchase again as well.

That’s good news for those who rely on technology for their voice, says Dana Nieder, whose daughter Maya uses the app.

“This case has set a precedent, one that says that AAC apps deserve some degree of respect and protection, and that the good ones are worth fighting for,” Nieder wrote on her blog.

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Comments (3 Responses)

  1. Julie says:

    So happy that little Maya will keep her voice. Kudos to Dana and the other parents for fighting for their children.

  2. Linda says:

    I am so relieved to hear that this petition has been successful!! Speech assistive devices are an incredible necessity for people who are non-verbal. Before the iPod and iPad, people had to use a ton of their personal funding to afford an expensive person communication device. Even now, said devices run up into the thousands of dollars and are still cumbersome and antiquated. For a large company like Prentke Romich Company [PRC] (a manufacturer of assistive communication devices for people who are non-verbal) to take away an affordable and meaningful tool, is selfish and contradictory to their mission. I think a patent dispute is an outrageous reason for peoples’ quality of life to be diminished.

  3. Laurie Spezzano says:

    Just because an app is for kids (or adults like my son) with disabilities does not make it right to violate someone’s patent or copyright. If an inventor writer or developer of something patent-worthy can’ t get paid for their product, they can’t afford to invest the time or money required to try to make it available.
    Semantic compaction is unique and wonderful and I am glad Prentke took the leap to make it happen. The settlement shows that it was worthy of being licensed and protected. Now it is available on more devices and apps, the right way.

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