Apple Copyright Complaints Get Android Customization App “Themer” Pulled From Google Play

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Themer, the Android customization app from MyColorScreen which last fall raised a half a million in seed funding, has been pulled from the Google Play marketplace following a copyright complaint from Apple in reference to one of the app’s 200-plus available themes. Themer was pulled down on February 2nd, and the app has been in limbo ever since, they now say, despite having resolved the issue with regard to the errant theme.

The theme in question is the “Seven” theme, which Apple says uses several icons that infringed on its own patents, explains Ashvin Dhingra, co-founder and CEO at Themer.

For background, Themer’s app allows users to browse a selection of custom-designed Android homescreen themes which can be installed with a push of a button. The high-quality themes are generally purchased from designers who, before Themer, were simply releasing their creations on the MyColorScreen website, a social service where users can share and comment on photos of Android customizations. It’s something like a Dribbble.com for Android designers, in fact.

Themer-seven theme“We immediately removed [the Seven] theme and thought that, at worst, Themer would be back on Play in a few days. But now a week later, we’re facing the possibility that a few days might turn into a few weeks,” Dhingra explains in an email to TechCrunch (and soon to be blog post on the company’s website.)

“We’ve spoken to legal representatives from Apple (who have been very nice, reasonable, and helpful), and they have no remaining concerns. But apparently, Google has a process for these things, and there’s nothing we can do to accelerate that process. Unfortunately, we still have not heard from anyone at Google.”

His missive aims to address the concerns of the community, who have been distraught over the app’s disappearance, and asking about its return. Themer, notes Dhingra, has been downloaded a million times in less than four months after its public beta debut this fall.

The company seems to be confused about what to do in this kind of situation, saying that Google lacks a developer advocate or single point of contact, which has had the team at Themer attempting to reach out to “random people, who may or may not be able to assist,” Dhingra laments. Google actually lists a variety of resources on its Android developers site, but apparently isn’t proactive about outreach in situations like this. (We’ve asked Google for comment on this, and will update the post if we hear back.)

The company says it doesn’t know when Themer is expected to return at this point, but there are no plans at this time to circumvent the Play store by releasing an APK, as a sideloaded app would lose out on the benefit of receiving automatic updates – critical as Themer moves toward its public 1.0 release.

In the meantime, current users can continue to receive support with any software issues via support.themerapp.com, notes the company. Below, the letter from Google.

Letter From Google:

This is a notification that your application, Themer Beta, with package ID com.mycolorscreen.themer, has been removed from the Google Play Store.

REASON FOR REMOVAL: Alleged copyright infringement (according to the terms of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act).

All violations are tracked. Serious or repeated violations of any nature will result in the termination of your developer account, and investigation and possible termination of related Google accounts. If your account is terminated, payments will cease and Google may recover the proceeds of any past sales and the cost of any associated fees (such as chargebacks and payment transaction fees) from you.

Please review the Developer Distribution Agreement and Content Policy to ensure that your applications are compliant with our policies.

The DMCA is a United States copyright law that provides guidelines for online service provider liability in case of copyright infringement. Click here for more information about the DMCA, and see http://www.google.com/dmca.html for the process that Google requires in order to make a DMCA complaint.

Google may reinstate your application into the Google Play Store upon receipt of a counter notification pursuant to sections 512(g)(2) and (3) of the DMCA. Click here for more information about the requirements of a counter notification and a link to a sample counter notification. If you have legal questions about this notification, you should retain your own legal counsel.

Please note that we have included a text copy of the Infringement Notice we received for your reference.

The Google Play Team

Text copy of DMCA complaint:

subject_lr_dmca: Your Request to Google
full_name: xxxx
companyname: xxxx
represented_copyright_holder: Apple Inc.
contact_email_noprefill: xxxx
country_residence: US
location_of_copyrighted_work: The original artwork for the following
infringed iOS7 app designs may be viewed on any iDevice running the iOS7
operating system:

Notes (Copyright Reg. No. VA1871602)
Stocks (Copyright Reg. No. VA1871786)
Newsstand (Copyright Reg. No. VA1871650)
Maps (Copyright Reg. No. VA1871438)
Camera (Copyright Reg. No. VA1871668)
Photos (Copyright Reg. No. VA1871779)
Settings (Copyright Reg. No. VA1871669)

description_of_copyrighted_work: Apple Inc. is the sole and exclusive owner
of the copyright in the original artwork for the app designs in its iOS 7
operating system. The foregoing application being distributed on Google
Play intentionally includes unauthorized reproductions of Apple’s
copyrighted apps, including its icon designs for Notes (Copyright Reg. No.
VA1871602), Stocks (Copyright Reg. No. VA1871786), Newsstand (Copyright
Reg. No. VA1871650), Maps (Copyright Reg. No. VA1871438), Camera (Copyright
Reg. No. VA1871668), Photos (Copyright Reg. No. VA1871779), Settings
(Copyright Reg. No. VA1871669) and other features. This application
violates Apple’s copyrights, in addition to other Apple IP rights. (This
app developer’s unauthorized reproduction of Apple’s multiple copyrights
may be viewed in-app by first downloading and installing the app, allowing
Themer to create widgets on one’s device, and loading the “Seven” theme
from the list of the “Most Popular” category under the Browse Themes.)

Image credits: Themer; theme via Androidtapp.com

UPDATE, 10:10 PM ET: Themer just received a message from Google saying that they have reinstated Themer. It will be live on the Play store in the next few hours.