Zippo Stole His Lighter App?

UPDATE: Zippo and Moderati respond.

This seems to be a new trend going on in Apple's App Store as of late. A few weeks back TiPb mentioned how Coors was being sued for 12 million dollars by a small time iPhone developer of a small gimmicky app, iBeer. Well yesterday we received a news tip telling us the story of how Zippo has allegedly stole the idea of the small developer regarding their app store application, iLighter. [iTunes link] I say "allegedly" because I want to fair to both parties and we only have one side of the story here. We did contact Zippo and Moderati to get a response to the accusations, we'll let you know if they have any official comments they can make.

You can read the developers full story at Be warned, it is a bit lengthy but I can give you a quick overview. An iPhone developer claims to have brought the idea of iLighter to Zippo. Zippo seemed to be interested in working together to get the app to the App Store. Communication was then ended abruptly by Zippo when they sent a letter demanding to remove their name from the app. A few months later, surprise, Zippo had a lighter app available on the App Store - Virtual Zippo Lighter. [iTunes Link]

If this is indeed all true that is a hit below the belt from Zippo. Especially for such a large company, very poor move on their part. On the other hand, there were a few other lighter apps in the App Store before either iLighter or Virtual Zippo Lighter ever appeared. So what is your take on all of this? Sound off in the comments!

[Thanks for the tip, dummaloop]

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!


Community editor. Tech enthusiast. All-around geek.

More Posts



← Previously

The iPhone Blog Week in Review for October 27, 2008

Next up →

TiPb Interview: PCalc Developer James Thomson Talks iPhone App Store and "Postmortems"

Reader comments

Zippo Stole His Lighter App?


Has anyone else noticed that this type of foot stamping is over apps that have no lasting or practical value? Personally, I see no value in a lighter app when I've got a real Zippo in my pocket that is of practical use.

this is just getting stupid now...
i mean it's the same principle as the light saber App...
Under this logic i could say... You can't make an App that involves breathing air... because i already did that..
it's just STUPID.
In my humble opinion someone should be allowed to make an App that's similar because what if they made it BETTER?
and under this same logic how come all the CHAT and IM app programs aren't slapping eachother's wrists? isn't an APP that involves IM's an idea?

5-10 years ago there a News Service (NNTP) called Zippo News Service. Zippo Lighters (manufacturing) went after them big time because of the name. They thought people would confues the news service with the lighters.
I guess what goes around comes back around

I'm not lawyer but the Zippo app is free... so they are not making any profit from this app with the exception of advertising the Zippo name. Now if they were selling it on the App Store then it may be different. Again though, who would actually pay for a app like this? Not me...

I think it is different from the light saber app, simply because a light saber is a trademarked item. A lighter is not. The sound effects and visual appearance of a light saber is specific to Lucas. Of course, Lucas then did it the RIGHT way, working with the creator to make a new, free app.

zippo isn't making a cent off this app, so everyone should shut up and calm down.
in matter of fact, they had to pay $99 dollars to submit the app.
So everyone should cry to themselves. Wah wah, zippo stole my idea, wah wah wahh....they're not making a cent and neither am I....waaaaahhhhhhhh

This is why we need a loser pays system in the US. It's a freaking fake lighter. If the guy's paid app is better, people will buy it, if the free one will do, it will do. Capitalism IS a good thing, you just have to man up and deal with it if you want to make it.

i guess maybe im just mad at "the system" then...
Here's my thing... and problem with this.. how can you trademark a LIGHTSABER?
i mean .. it's a sci FI made up Sword made out of Light/Energy...
this would be like trademarking a LASER GUN...
i mean these things aren't real, so how can you get ownership over something sci fi like that.. it just doesn't make sense... so yeah maybe Im just mad at "the system" =)

"Light saber" is a specific term invented to a energy sword, created by George Lucas. Prior to that, did anyone else ever think of making a laser sword?
Now, if you called in energy sword, laser sword, etc (and didn't use the same images and sounds that are specifically tied to the Lucas version) that is something entirely different.
Laser gun is not a specific trade mark, light saber was specific to the Star Wars saga. Lucas doesn't have a trademark on the idea of an energy sword, instead, specifically a "lightsaber".

BTW, on another forum I participate in, there was a huge legal issue we were discussing involving trademarks, copyrights, and intellectual property.
Copyright covers ideas, trademarks cover logos, brandnames, symbols. So a "lightsaber" is trademarked, but the idea of an energy sword is (probably) not copyrighted. I would have to check to make sure. If you wanted to create an app that had some sort of energy sword, but it didn't look like or sound like a lightsaber, and it wasn't called a lightsaber, it would probably be ok (again, depends in Lucas copyrighted the idea of an energy sword - since the idea predated Star Wars, my guess is he didn't).
But of course, everyone wants one that looks and sounds like a lightsaber. :)

This publisher needs to understand that there will be competition and that they need to innovate in order to continue to justify their product. They should stop whining about competition and move on.

I don't see this as a case of simply whining or improving an existing product. Now et's simplify things just for argument's sake and assume there were no other lighter apps before iLighter:
Developer A represents iLighter and Developer B represents Virtual Zippo Lighter.
Dev A does all the hard work and puts out iLighter, then Dev B sees an opportunity to use the prior work to commercially promote a real life brand name product. Whether or not they charge for the app itself is a moot point because featuring a Zippo is promoting the product for commercial gain. Dev B tells Dev A let's work together to improve the prior art and incorporate our brand name Zippo to give the app some authenticity. Dev B then pulls put of the deal without contacting Dev A, then has the gaul to issue a cease-and-desist.
This sucks for Dev A because their work is prior and now Dev B is taking all the credit and using the original to promote a real life product.
Whether or not the app has any "practical" application is also a moot point, not to mention that is highly subjective to begin with.

After a couple days have passed since I posted my story, its interesting to see the public feedback. I'll say that I understand people's point about competition and that things like this happen in the business world. I guess the part that really bothers me is that unlike iBeer/iPint where they released the same 1 feature app the same day, Zippo engaged us after our initial contact, requested changes, supported our efforts by sending images, discussed terms and then over 2 weeks after said they already had someone working an iPhone app like this and then tried to delay us by stalling and requesting random things and then just sent us the C&D. Then they go releasing a month later, copying us feature for feature, and even more obscure stuff that no one else was doing like interacting with the flame with your finger. Even their YouTube video is nearly a spot on copy of what we privately sent them as a demo. Also in their Wired interview they talk about no other decent lighter apps existing before theirs when ours had been out for a month. I have proof that we started ours well before the app store went live and therefore did not copy the idea from an existing app. My last point is that despite it being an app without a utility/business use, it is complex, took a lot of work and is really no less worthwhile then half the games on the store. Its hard to have incentive as a small developer to make an app that any large company with a big budget can easily come in and just straight copy and you may have no legal ground to do anything.

I've been browsing on-line more than 3 hours lately, but I by no means found any fascinating article like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all site owners and bloggers made just right content material as you probably did, the web might be a lot more useful than ever before.