The number of iPhone applications recently reached 10,000, but these applications did not get there easily. Once a developer completes an app, its placement in the app store is subject to Apple’s unspecified review criteria. If it gets approved, chances of it being duplicated and made available for free are high.
TouchType, a program that allows iPhone users to type emails in landscape mode,allowed for an easier to use keyboard than the default touch keyboard. The $1 app made the developer 70-cents a sale. A week later Firemail was introduced, which did exactly what TouchType did but was available to download for free. It turned out TouchType was under Apple review for two months while it took Firemail less than a week to get approved. Apple didn’t respond to questions regarding this or similar cases.
Copyright is difficult to enforce for determing whose application is first in Apple’s store. In previous cases, people relied on getting out there first and establishing intellectual property rights. But in Apple’s case, this is hard to do. Maybe we’ll see law schools develop a concentration for iPhone App Store rights soon.