updated 06:45 pm EDT, Thu October 11, 2012
Two patents, some copyrights licensed; other terms confidential
Pittsburgh-based assistive talking device developer and dealer Semantic Compaction Systems and Prentke Romich Company has come to an agreement with competitor Speak for Yourself, and has ended the four-month-long lawsuit between the pair. Under the settlement, licenses to two patents and some copyrights are being granted to Speak for Yourself. Semantic and Prentke Romich, who make the software and devices for autistic or otherwise speech-impaired users, are withdrawing an infringement notice filed with Apple against Speak for Yourself, which could pave the way towards Apple reinstating the app on the App Store. Apple removed Speak for Yourself's app shortly after the lawsuit was launched.
PRC does manufacture custom hardware devices for speech augmentation, which run from $2,600 to over $15,000, a portion of which is typically covered by health insurance. Speak for Yourself is a $300 app, so the cost of entry (if one includes the purchase of at least an iPad 2 to run the application) is a minimum of $700. The cost of the app (and iPad if needed) are generally not covered by insurance, regardless of the cost savings over custom solutions. Apple has not commented on the resolution of the suit, nor provided any timetable for reinstatement of the full application.
MacNN has spoken with a parent whose autistic child uses Speak for Yourself on a daily basis. When asked if they had considered using any other applications for communicative purposes, the father said that several alternatives exist. One alternative he had tried was PRC's own Vantage Lite, which costs $7,500. The father said that although he has "no problem with PRC suing [Speak For Yourself] if they think their patent has been infringed upon," he felt Apple should not have removed the app before the legal wrangling had run its course. The father added that "unlike the PRC device -- [which may need] to be sent off for repair -- if something happens to my son's iPad with Speak for Yourself, [prior to the removal of the app] we could just go to the nearest Apple store or Best Buy and have his 'voice' back in minutes."
Other applications for assistive speech are available on the App Store, but it can be difficult to migrate an autistic or otherwise "special needs" child and their parents to a new program when the old one worked well for them. A feature called Guided Access has been introduced in iOS 6 that should allow parents and caregivers to customize apps so that they work better in the hands of developmentally-challenged users.