After Suing Apple, BlueMail Calls on Other Developers 'Kicked Out' of App Store to Join the Fight [Updated]

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Back in October, the developers behind email app BlueMail sued Apple, alleging that the "Hide My Email" feature of "Sign in with Apple" infringes on its patented technology. The complaint [PDF] also accuses Apple of anticompetitive behavior, including removing BlueMail from the Mac App Store.


"Hide My Email" hides a user's personal email address by substituting it with a unique, random email address when setting up an account in an app or on a website that supports "Sign in with Apple."

Apple explains how the feature works in a support document:
A unique, random email address is created, so your personal email address isn't shared with the app or website developer during the account setup and sign in process. This address is unique to you and the developer and follows this format: @privaterelay.appleid.com

For example, if j.appleseed@icloud.com is your Apple ID, your unique, random email address for a given app might look like dpdcnf87nu@privaterelay.appleid.com.

Any messages sent to this address by the app or website developer are automatically forwarded to your personal email address by our private email relay service. You can read and respond directly to these emails and still keep your personal address private.
After writing a public letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, BlueMail co-founders Ben Volach and Dan Volach said that they were contacted by Apple within a few hours, but they claim that the correspondence was merely a delay tactic.
We were overjoyed when we heard back from Apple within the day - within just a few hours in fact. It seemed to share our desire for a mutual solution and we worked quickly to meet its requests, but these too were just tactics meant to delay us.

Rerouted to teams that didn't respond for weeks, told outright that our app doesn't run on macOS Catalina when we can prove it does, and given contradictory guidance from different teams within Apple, we found ourselves back at square one. Perhaps even worse than square one, because Apple's legal team saw our willingness to work together as weakness and strengthened its stance against us.
Now, the Volach brothers have penned an open letter to the developer community, encouraging any developers who feel that Apple has kicked them out of the App Store or otherwise treated them unfairly to reach out to BlueMail and share their stories.
If any of that sounds familiar to you, if Apple has kicked you out of its App Store, used its developer guidelines to control your innovation, hijacked your store ranking, or (let's be honest with each other) lied to you while it steals your technology, it's time to talk. Even if you're not sure you want to go through with it (because we know how scary it can be), tell us your story. We won't share anything about you without your consent.

A lot of attention was placed on the congressional hearings in Colorado on January 17, but there are many who don't have the standing of Sonos or Tile. Together, we will have a voice.

We want to be back on the App Store, but we also want fairness. For us. For you. For all developers. Take a stand with us and email fair@bluemail.me with your experience.
BlueMail was removed from the Mac App Store in June 2019, the same month that Apple introduced "Sign in with Apple." In a nutshell, Apple found the app to be violating several App Store Review Guidelines, but the Volach brothers disagree and are now looking for other developers similarly situated to bolster their case.

BlueMail remains available on other platforms, including iOS and Android.

Update -- Feb 11, 2020: BlueMail has returned to the Mac App Store. In a press release, BlueMail parent company Blix said it has no intention of dropping its legal case against Apple, which it says extends beyond the removal of BlueMail on the Mac App Store to the "suppression of its iOS app and the infringement of Blix's patented technology through 'Sign in with Apple.'"

"We're happy that users can once again get BlueMail through the Mac App Store, but we know this isn't the end. Our experience has shown that until the app review process includes effective checks and balances, Apple holds too much power over small developers." said Ben Volach, co-founder at Blix. "One solution could be to include external independent members and observers in Apple's App Review Board, just as a public company's Board of Directors represents its shareholders."

"When we wrote to Tim Cook in November, we heard back in hours. When we wrote to Apple's developer community, BlueMail was back on the App Store within a week," said Dan Volach, co-founder at Blix. "If you're out there too scared to come forward, let this be your proof that speaking out works. To Apple, we want to reiterate that all we want for developers is an opportunity to be treated fairly."

Article Link: After Suing Apple, BlueMail Calls on Other Developers 'Kicked Out' of App Store to Join the Fight [Updated]
 
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gnasher729

macrumors P6
Nov 25, 2005
16,648
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"shocked to find that Apple copied our patented technology... " I would be delighted if Apple did this, because it means I can sell my patents to some sharks for lots of money.
 

TheColtr

macrumors 6502
Feb 1, 2014
365
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California
Companies go through patent litigation all the time. If Bluemail thinks they have a patent on the technology go through the legal system and be done. Apple obviously isn’t going to be strong armed into putting your app back on the Mac AppStore just because you supposedly have a patent. Bluemail needs to quit whining and do what everyone else does and just simply take it to court. Let the law decide.
 

69Mustang

macrumors 604
Jan 7, 2014
7,153
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In between a rock and a hard place
I was creating forwarding addresses to hide my email from spammers twenty years ago. it's nothing new.
20 years ago you weren't automating the process for the average consumer though. You certainly didn't patent it. They did and they did. Do they have a legit case? IDK. I do know what you wrote isn't really an effective counter to their claims.
So tired of patent trolls.
Patent troll? Do you know what that term means? Whether they have a valid case or not they certainly don't fit the description of a patent troll.
 

Appleman3546

macrumors regular
May 13, 2019
114
134
I am glad that more and more developers are filing suit against Apple’s arbitrary App Store rules. They have a rival email app and expect competitors to bend to their rules or cut them into the profits. There are no apps for consumers to download with developers, so it has always surprised me that Apple monopolistically bullies the developers so much.
 
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alent1234

macrumors 603
Jun 19, 2009
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20 years ago you weren't automating the process for the average consumer though. You certainly didn't patent it. They did and they did. Do they have a legit case? IDK. I do know what you wrote isn't really an effective counter to their claims.

Patent troll? Do you know what that term means? Whether they have a valid case or not they certainly don't fit the description of a patent troll.

it's called prior art

lots of cools stuff done in the 90's that's largely forgotten now and some people think they created something new
 

az431

macrumors 65816
Sep 13, 2008
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Portland, OR
I am glad that more and more developers are filing suit against Apple’s arbitrary App Store rules. They have a rival email app and expect competitors to bend to their rules or cut them into the profits. There are no apps for consumers to download with developers, so it has always surprised me that Apple monopolistically bullies the developers so much.
Nothing arbitrary here, but of course you don't have an inkling of why the app was pulled.
 
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FightTheFuture

macrumors 65816
Oct 19, 2003
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that town east of ann arbor
They have a rival email app and expect competitors to bend to their rules or cut them into the profits. There are no apps for consumers to download with developers, so it has always surprised me that Apple monopolistically bullies the developers so much.
Sign-in with Apple isn’t an email app, and BlueMail is still available on iOS. It does seem to be an issue with Catalina, they don’t have to use the Mac App Store.
 
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69Mustang

macrumors 604
Jan 7, 2014
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In between a rock and a hard place
What automation are you talking about? Generating a random string? Nothing patentable there - personal mail servers and email forwarding services with various naming schemes have been around for a long time.
Your opinion seems to run contrary to facts in evidence. Bluemail has a patent for their tech.
it's called prior art

lots of cools stuff done in the 90's that's largely forgotten now and some people think they created something new
I have no idea what you're trying to convey, or how it relates to my comment. Sorry.
 

Gasu E.

macrumors 601
Mar 20, 2004
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Not far from Boston, MA.
Yawn. The use of private APIs is clearly prohibited. They knew that, they ignored it, and the app was pulled.
If they used a private API without the explicit permission of Apple, that's pretty bad. It represents a callous disregard of the customer experience, since Apple has every right to change a private API without notice, making such an application suddenly difunctional. Moreover, since the MacOS App Store is really no more than a joint marketing program (unlike the iOS App Store, rejection from which actually prevents apps from running on an unmodified device), Apple has every right to end a joint marketing agreement on any previously established terms-- it falls short of monopolistic behavior.

I'm not being particularly pro-Apple here-- it's quite possible they violated the main contention, the patent issue. But, if this company did use a private API, their other contention seems nothing more than an attempt to cloud the issue by trying to associate MacOS store rejection with the more contentious iOS store rejection, in the public eye.
 

gk4

macrumors member
Mar 6, 2010
41
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Did you use the systems or methods described in patent 9,749,284? If so, you should contact Apple. If not, your experience is irrelevant.
Is your suggestion that because a patented is granted, their invention is novel and not frivolous?

I tried to skim through the patent and it's basically just an automated method of creating what they call a 'public interaction alias' then brokering the communications between your real address and this one. Is that what you think is novel, or is there something in there we're missing.