ECONOMY

Apple Promotes, Profits From Fraudulent Apps, Developer Says

Apple Inc. was sued by the creator of a mobile-device keyboard interface for the blind who says the company’s failure to police fraudulent knockoffs sold in the App Store penalizes honest developers.

Kosta Eleftheriou, who cites a long history of developing successful applications acquired by Apple, Google and Pinterest, says that after struggling with the iPhone maker to to get permission to sell his FlickType in the App Store, competitors quickly surfaced with products that were slickly marketed but didn’t really work — stealing 80% of his revenue.

The company falsely advertises the App Store as a “safe and trusted source” of applications, Eleftheriou said in a complaint filed Thursday in state court in San Jose, California.

“Despite possessing massive resources and technological savvy, Apple intentionally fails to police these fraudsters, costing honest developers millions, and perhaps billions, while Apple continues to amass huge profits for itself,” according to a copy of the suit provided to Bloomberg News. The case couldn’t immediately be verified in electronic court records.

The developer says after leaving a job at Pinterest in 2017, he developed apps including FlickType that was designed to help visually impaired people use Apple Watch and iPhone keyboards.

Apple lurched from interest in acquiring FlickType to suddenly removing it from its App Store, according to the complaint. In 2019, Eleftheriou says he was able to release a version of the app that enabled other developers to incorporate its gesture typing into their own programs.

Apple sold applications that used the FlickType keyboard such as “Chirp for Twitter,” “Nano for Reddit,” “WatchChat for WhatsApp” and “Lens for Instagram,” but refused to sell Eleftheriou’s FlickType as an independent app for the Apple Watch, according to the complaint.

In January 2020, after competitor applications had been sold for a year, Apple finally permitted the sale of FlickType and a related program, Eleftheriou claims. It quickly became the App Store’s top paid program. Within a month, however, rivals were offering barely usable applications, reducing Eleftheriou’s revenue from $100,000 to $20,000 per month, according to the complaint.

Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is KPAW v. Apple, Californa Superior Court, Santa Clara County (San Jose).

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