Rival iPhone developers bicker over 'pull my finger'

Take squabble of competing gas-passing apps to federal court

Last week's filing was a preemptive move, said Joel Comm, the president of InfoMedia. In a blog post Thursday, Comm, the author of several books on Internet marketing, said, "I was willing to negotiate with [Air-O-Matic], but I will not be harassed into paying them money just because our application was more popular and sold more units than theirs."

In its filing, InfoMedia asked that the court rule its use of "pull my finger" does not infringe on any rights of Air-O-Matic. "InfoMedia's use of the phrase 'pull my finger' was simply that of a descriptive phrase, is not protectable under federal trademark law as it is merely descriptive of the act of flatulence, [and] was fair use," the company said.

The behind-the-scenes maneuvering and legal wrangling is indicative of the strength of the iPhone App Store market. Although Apple does not provide sales figures for individual applications sold through its App Store, some developers have claimed to have made hundreds of thousands of dollars on their work. The maker of "iShoot," for example, recently told Wired that his $2.99 tank artillery game brought in US$600,000 in a single month.

Comm has also disclosed some iFart Mobile numbers. Last December 25, for instance, InfoMedia sold nearly 39,000 copies of the program, netting over US$27,000 for the day after Apple took its customary 30 percent.

InfoMedia's iFart Mobile, which is priced at 99 cents, and Air-O-Matic's Pull My Finger, also 99 cents, are far from the only such choices at the App store; a search for similar apps found a surprising 98 different applications.

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