The Women Who Created Skin Tones Emoji is Now Suing Apple

BY Mahit Huilgol

Published 11 Mar 2021

In recent years Emoji has shaped up as a preferred way to express oneself. Every year we get to see new Emoji’s and other improvements. Back in the early days, Emoji was available in a single tone. However, this changed in 2013, thanks to a woman named Katrina Parrott.

Katrina Parrott was the first one to come up with skin tones emoji. Soon enough, she discussed her idea with Apple and explored ways in which it can be implemented. Within six months, Parrott built an app called iDiversicons. It allowed users to copy and paste Emoji with five different colors; These were the days when App Makers raked in huge revenues.

Parrott invested $200,000 so that the app could grow and evolve. Much to her dismay Apple and other technology companies incorporated skin tone emoji and left her in the lurch. Parrott is suing Apple, claiming skewed mobile app store dynamics and how easily app developers can be sidelined.

Apple is yet to comment on the subject. However, in its filing, Apple says, “copyright does not protect the idea of applying five different skin tones to emoji because ideas are not copyrightable.” Furthermore, the company claims it just developed new skin tone emoji independently, and there is no case of copyright infringement.

Apple is keen on projecting itself as the poster boy for racial justice and equity initiative. The company recently announced an initiative for Black entrepreneurs and promised a part of its revenue. However, Parrott’s case tells a different story and goes against Apple’s fight against racial inequality.

Jennifer Lee, vice chairman of emoji subcommittee of Unicode Consortium, had the following to say “If she had been a White male from Stanford or MIT in her mid-20s, it’s more likely her company would have been acquired by Apple.”

Our Take

This is not the first time technology companies have sidelined developers. Apple has often been accused of cloning features offered by most popular apps into iOS. The developers are left in a fray, and most of them eventually end up shutting their shops.

In 2019 Apple reportedly forced developers to remove certain features from their app after debuting the Screen Time feature on iOS 12. Trouble seems to be mounting for Apple as EU regulators are ready to file charges against Apple in the Spotify case.

[via WashingtonPost]