‘Knitters should decide’: Small Seattle knitting start-up pushes to ‘unravel’ Apple in App Store fight

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A Seattle-based startup is turning its knitting needles against Apple.

Knitrino, creator of an app of the same name that helps knitters navigate tricky projects and find unique patterns, recently signed on to support Epic Games, the North Carolina-based game and software developer behind Fortnite, in its lawsuit alleging Apple violates antitrust laws and monopolizes the app ecosystem.

The two tech companies have been embroiled in a legal battle since Epic tried to circumvent Apple’s tightly regulated App Store and trick customers into making purchases on Epic’s website, rather than through the system. Apple’s built-in payment.

Epic says Apple uses anti-competitive practices on its App Store, while Apple says its policies are necessary to maintain the store and protect consumer privacy and security.

Knitrino says Apple has too much control.

After an argument with Apple to get its knitting app onto the store – and a realization that there weren’t many options if they didn’t succeed in the digital market – Knitrino signed on to back Epic. Knitrino’s attorneys filed a legal case in January alleging that Apple’s policies increase consumer costs, restrict innovation and reduce consumer choice.

“Knitters should decide,” said Andrea Cull, co-founder of Knitrino and a knitter herself. “The fact that Apple can say your waiting customers can’t have this, and there was nowhere to go. Saying you spent two years building something so he never sees daylight.

Cull and her sister Alison Yates launched Knitrino in November 2020 as a platform to help knitters go digital. They bill the app as Google Maps for knitters by providing users with step-by-step information about their project, from how-to videos for a particular type of stitch to the ability to match charts to your yarn colors.

The app is free for customers and features new knitting patterns for sale at $10-$17 each.

After two years of going to knitting shows, talking to potential customers and potential designers, and developing the software, Knitrinio asked to list their product on both the Google Play Store and the App Store. from Apple.

Google approved the app within hours. Apple sent a rejection to the sisters, arguing that it could not sell both physical and digital goods through its integrated payment system, according to Yates and Cull.

After the first rejection, Knitrino made some technical changes and tried again. Over the next few days, the Founders went back and forth with Apple — making changes, reapplying, and receiving what appeared to be irrelevant parts of Apple’s policies pasted in response.

Knitrino appealed Apple’s decision to its own review board. It was dismissed in 19 minutes.

“The feeling we had when we were going through that was like hitting a wall, but not being able to see the wall,” Yates said. “I don’t know how high this wall is. I don’t know if I can walk a few miles this way and get around it. We just felt in the dark.

“When they’re the approver and the court of appeal, if they say no, we can’t go to another app store to reach our customers,” she continued.

Apple could not be reached for comment on details of the Knitrino case.

It states that over 40% of rejected apps are rejected due to app completeness, or things like not having fully functional URLs or placeholder text still taking up space on the app. application. Applications may also be rejected due to technical bugs, broken links, substandard user interface, product submission that may mislead users, or failing to provide users with lasting value, according to a long list on Apple’s website.

On average, Apple says it reviews 50% of app submissions within 24 hours and 90% within 48 hours.

Knitrino later won Apple’s approval, though the sisters aren’t sure what led to the reverse decision.

The app is now available on the Apple Store – and has over 20,000 downloads across Google and Apple Stores – but Yates and Cull said the experience has left them eager to help make changes to the app. how Apple works with app developers.

He signed an amicus brief in favor of Epic in November 2021 and joined a growing group of supporters submitting their own friend of court briefs in January, including Microsoft, several economics and business professors, and a 35-state coalition. . Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson signed off on the effort.

Knitrino has signed its name alongside the Consumer Federation of America, Chicago-based software company Basecamp, and Match Group, the Dallas-based online dating company that includes match.com.

Epic’s appeal is being heard in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. This court’s decision is likely the “end of the line” for Epic’s lawsuit against Apple, said Margaret MacLean, a partner at Lowey Dannenberg, the law firm that handled the amicus filing that featured Knitrino.

The court will hear arguments this spring or summer and a decision will likely be handed down this year, MacLean said.

At Knitrino, the sisters began selling “Unravel Apple” stickers, a partial back-up plan should their support of Epic result in retaliation against their company.

“We’ve invested everything in this, and for Apple to wield the kind of power where they can say whether or not we can go into business, for something so arbitrary,” Yates said.

“For us, we’re in the App Store, so we really only have things to lose. But in terms of the world as a whole, I wish I had an alternative.

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