Firms settle suit on apps for nonverbal people

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A four-month-long lawsuit over computer applications for nonverbal people, which prompted Apple to pull a popular app from its iTunes store, has been settled, according to filings Wednesday in U.S. District Court.

Pittsburgh-based Semantic Compaction Systems and its licensee, Prentke Romich Co., sued the Philadelphia-area firm Speak for Yourself for patent infringement. The firms all offer computer systems that allow users to put together words using special keyboards or touch screens.

Speak for Yourself's app allows users -- typically children -- to communicate with their parents and teachers by touching a screen just twice to prompt their device to verbalize any of 14,000 words. The app's creators, Renee Collender and Heidi Lostracco, are speech pathologists.

When Apple responded to the lawsuit by yanking the app, parents of its users were upset and launched an online protest campaign.

Under the settlement, Semantic and Prentke Romich are granting to Speak for Yourself licenses to two of their patents and some of their copyrights. They are also withdrawing their infringement notices against Speak for Yourself, and promising not to issue any future notices, a move that could allow Apple to put the app back on iTunes.

Speak for Yourself "can sell this app to the mothers and fathers with assurances, based on that joint statement, that the app will not come back down," said that firm's attorney, John C. Hansberry. All other settlement terms are confidential.

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Rich Lord: 412-263-1542.


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