Apple sued for copying businesswoman’s diverse emoji idea

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(Sept 19): Apple Inc. was sued for allegedly copying an innovation credited with helping bring racial diversity to the world of emojis, those ubiquitous characters used as shortcuts to express emotions in digital communications.

Katrina Parrott, an African-American businesswoman, debuted her copyrighted method for letting users choose from five skin tones to color a line of emojis -- known as iDiversicons -- on Apple’s App Store in 2013 and on iTunes in 2014.

Parrott claims Apple stiff-armed her pursuit of a partnership deal after a series of 2014 meetings and communications between herself and two senior Apple software engineers, who got a close look at her technology. Apple released its own five-skin tone keyboard modifier pallet in April 2015, and downloads of Parrott’s iDiversicons dropped.

In a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in Waco, Texas, Parrott accuses Apple of infringing her copyright and trade dress, misappropriating her ideas and technology, unfair competition and unjust enrichment. She seeks a court order blocking Apple from using her work and unspecified money damages based on Apple’s profits and her own lost business opportunities from the alleged copying.

Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.