This post was submitted by Chris Hawkins and the SignNow team
About two weeks ago, we woke up to find that a new app on the App Store had launched – with the name: SignNow by GameStruct, Inc.
As a security company, Barracuda constantly watches for a huge range of violations and issues, including IP ones such as this. The app lacks most of the essential features for a business user, and seems to be buggy still, so we don’t worry about it from a competitor perspective, we simply worry about it confusing our brand.
Within a day we sent a Cease and Desist letter. As we dug in deeper, we uncovered a web of black hat tactics and rip-offs that exposed some of the dark underbelly of App Store developers.
Compare the two applications below:
We dug in more, and uncovered a web of behavior designed to confuse consumers into purchasing their apps, rather than compete in the marketplace.
Originally, this same codebase was released as an app under the name “SignPDF” Dec 9, 2013, by the developer Tektrify, Inc. This app was a rip-off of an app really named SignPDF. January 7, 2014, the same app was released as SignNow (with some minor iOS7 tweaks). See below:
So here are two “separate” developers, releasing effectively the same app, weeks apart, violating the trademarks/app names in order to confuse customers into what app is “real” and collect downloads.
Who are GameStruct and Tektrify?
GameStruct has released a series of apps:
A glance at some of these highlights that the GameStruct’s apps shows most of them to follow the same formula:
Step 1: Find a successful app
Step 2: Release a lightly featured version of the app with multiple paying mechanisms
Step 3: Harvest mistaken downloads and confusion and convert this to cash
Tektrify appears to follow the same strategy.
They are almost certainly the same people. They have the same codebase, style of apps, and both take the same strategy of piggybacking on other companies’ trademarks and app names to get downloads. There could be more of these shell companies.
Almost comically, in the design for GameStruct’s “SignNow” app, they actually use our actual SignNow app to show the “Open With” functionality. So in case there was any doubt, they definitely were attempting to rip us off:
If GameStruct and Tektrify, or any other Black Hat App Developers, want to build products and compete in the market, go ahead. But their current strategy is not about competing. Their current strategy is designed to deliberately confuse consumers in order to harvest downloads, a strategy that defies the App Store guidelines, hurts consumers, and is morally questionable.
Ultimately, GameStruct changed the name and logo of their application within two weeks in response to our Cease and Desist. While some credit may be due, we had filed a complaint with Apple’s trademark department at that point so action was inevitable. We ultimately decided to post this anyway so that you, the reader, can be aware of what’s happening, and make educated decisions how to best protect your apps and IP.
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Christine Barry is chief blogger and social content manager at Barracuda. In this role, she helps bring Barracuda stories to life and facilitate communication between the public and Barracuda internal teams. Prior to joining Barracuda, Christine was a field engineer and project manager for K12 and SMB clients for over 15 years. She holds several technology credentials, a Bachelor of Arts, and a Master in Business Administration. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan.