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Apple removes several iOS copycat games from one offending developer

In an attempt to prevent developers from stealing ideas on the iTunes App Store, Apple has silently removed a number of apps that lifted content from existing, successful titles.
Apple struck a blow against video game clones today by removing several offending apps from one rather prolific independent developer. Among the removed games are apps such as Plant vs. Zombie, Angry Ninja Birds, and Temple Jump, each of which (as you might guess from their titles) had more than a little in common with with major titles such as Plants vs. Zombies, Angry Birds, and Temple Run, respectively. The recently-removed Temple Jump in particular saw some notable success on the iTunes App Store, reaching the very top of the paid app chart, according to a report by technology blog TechCrunch. All of the alleged app "clones" mentioned above come from independent developer Anton Sinelnikov. According to a Twitter post from iOS developer David Smith, Sinelnikov had 68 iOS apps available this morning -- as of this writing, only nine remain. This controversy is just the latest in a string of alleged copycat scenarios in the mobile space. Over the past few days, social gaming giant Zynga has been accused of copying not one, but two existing iOS apps, and Spry Fox has sued publisher 6waves Lolapps for supposedly lifting ideas from the match-three puzzle game Triple Town. Despite these numerous incidents, this is one of the rare occasions where a platform holder has stepped in to police the situation itself. "We're really happy with how quickly Apple responded to the situation and removed [Temple Jump]," Imangi co-founder Natalia Luckyanova told Gamasutra. "The app was clearly a scam that traded entirely on the popularity of Temple Run and was packaged to confuse users." Luckyanova added that the Temple Jump app succeeded in confusing its audience, as a number of consumers accidentally purchased the app, thinking it was a tie in to Imangi's popular title. "This was really upsetting to us and damaging to our brand, because we work really hard to put out very high quality polished games and win the love of our fans, and we don't want them to think that we would put out crap to steal a dollar from them," she said. As noted by TechCrunch, Apple's iTunes App Store has a few systems in place to police the numerous available apps, but beyond submitting reviews and reporting bugs or offensive content, iOS users have no direct way to flag titles that mimic existing apps. Luckyanova, however, says platform holders can't be held responsible for stopping app scams, as such an undertaking would make the app review process far too complex. "I don't think there's a perfect solution, because you need human judgement involved in the system. The platform holder can't realistically police copyright violations, or just misleading apps. As developers, we sign an agreement saying that we have obtained all the IP permissions necessary for our work, so that responsibility is on the developer," she said. "I guess I don't have a solution, because I wouldn't want reviews to be even more strictly policed. The good thing is that most stores have a way to appeal the process if something does slip through the cracks." Last week, Apple revealed that third-party app developers -- copycats and otherwise -- have earned a total of $4 billion dollars through the Mac and iOS app stores so far.

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