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Japanese Developer Sues Apple For Allegedly Stealing iPhone X ‘Animoji’ Feature

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The iPhone X isn't launching until November, but Apple is already being sued over allegedly stealing one of the phone's features from a certain Japanese developer.

That feature is Animoji, which works by capturing the user's facial movements via the TrueDepth camera and turning them into fun little animations featuring an alien, a chicken, and even a poop emoji. It worked surprisingly well when demoed last September during the iPhone X unveiling, but its name isn't original, a new lawsuit claims.

Apple Reportedly Stole The Name 'Animoji' From A Developer

Tokyo-based developer Emonster kk sued Apple on Wednesday, Oct. 18, in a San Francisco federal court, claiming it holds the U.S. trademark for the term "animoji" and that Apple using the same name for its Animoji feature is a "textbook case" of trademark infringement, as Reuters reports.

"Apple made the conscious decision to try to pilfer the name for itself," said Emonster kk CEO Enrique Bonansea, a U.S. citizen living in Japan.

Emonster launched an iOS app called Animoji in 2014, which lets people send animated emoji in an endless looping GIF format. Users have to input a specific line of code to generate a specific GIF animation — and because the resulting emoji is a GIF, it becomes viewable by anyone, even non-Animoji users.

By contrast, the Animoji feature on iPhone X is wholly different because the way users input data is by literally making faces in front of the camera. With the help of the phone's TrueDepth camera system, Animoji can accurately mimic even slight facial movements and convert that into wacky little cartoons. Just watch Apple executive Craig Federighi cluck like a chicken onstage as part of a demo.

The lawsuit alleges that because both apps are available on iOS and involve animations, the court should rule one out. Apple knew about Emonster kk's ownership of the Animoji trademark, according to the lawsuit, and attempted to purchase the trademark using a front company, like The Emoji Law Group LLC.

Apple Tried To Cancel The Animoji Trademark

Even after the developer turned down the request, Apple still kept the name regardless, according to the lawsuit. Emonster kk owned the trademark for Animoji since 2015, and in September Apple filed a petition to have it canceled, so the registration is now under review. Apple alleged that because of a filing error, Emonster kk can't actually own the trademark because it was registered to a nonexistent business.

The developer is seeking an undisclosed sum of money in damages and a court order to prevent Apple from using the name Animoji going forward. Apple has yet to comment on the lawsuit, but it's hard to imagine that Apple will scrap the Animoji name when it's already being heavily marketed.

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