iPhone developers have often struggled to make sense of Apple's iPhone app store approval process. A recent rejection of Instapaper Pro ($9.99 from iTunes)--a tool that saves Web pages for reading later--is just as baffling. The app has already been available in the store as both a free (iTunes link) and a paid app, but the latest 1.4 version was denied by Apple.
According to the author of the app, Marco Arment, Instapaper Pro 1.4 was rejected because of the "middle icon" in the graphic below.
Arment goes on to say:
That's prohibited in the App Store because it depicts an iPhone, and Apple rejected Instapaper Pro 1.4 because of it.
Apple responded to Arment by stating:
We've reviewed Instapaper Pro and determined that we cannot post this version of your iPhone application to the App Store because of an Apple trademark image.
Citing this policy:
You may not use the Apple Logo or any other Apple-owned graphic symbol, logo, or icon on or in connection with web sites, products, packaging, manuals, promotional/advertising materials, or for any other purpose except pursuant to an express written trademark license from Apple, such as a reseller agreement.
I don't know enough about trademark law to know whether Apple needs to defend against this sort of use, but it seems like a stretch to say that an abstractly drawn icon depicting a device (which resembles many other phones as much as it resembles the iPhone) is trademark infringement.
This despite the use of the very same icon in other applications still available, and despite the fact that several previous iterations of Instapaper were approved.
Apple's behavior makes us wonder: where is this flip-flop approval coming from? With snafus like Apple's approval--then quick removal--of apps such as the appalling Baby Shaker, Apple's policies remain mysterious, and--for many developers--frustrating.