dynamo writes "My brother Dave* and I just released mooch, an iPhone app for keeping track of loans between friends (ex: borrowing $10 for a movie ticket.) When we started, we did some research and, amazingly, there didn't seem to be any iPhone apps out there that did this already. We researched available names during the design process, and eventually settled on "mooch", because lowercase utility names just feel right. mooch version 1.0 was completed and submitted to Apple on Aug. 2nd.
On Sep. 17th, after roughly six weeks** of "in-review" status, mooch posted to the App Store. We were thrilled — until we found out that another app with very similar functionality had been released two days earlier on the 15th (but that had been submitted after ours) — and with a nearly identical name — "Mooch! (IOU)". There are some minor differences in the UI and feature set, but the core functionality is the same as mooch's. (ex: They have a button to send a deadbeat friend reminders per transaction, we have a button to send a reminder email per friend, with the current total and transaction history.)
So, what do you do in this situation? Well, you compete, obviously, and of course we intend to do that. There are enough potential customers for more than one personal loan management app. Our concern is the similarity in name combined with the similarity in function. I can't just say to buy the app called mooch that tracks personal loans, and expect someone to find it, I have to say to get the mooch with the hand grabbing the cash icon. We've pretty much decided not to ask them to change their name — mostly because we don't want to be jerks about it, but also because we probably don't have the legal / financial resources available to make them if they don't want to.
The other issue is that we have a long list of planned features, some of which are already implemented in their application — for example, attaching a photo to a transaction. It seems likely enough that the reverse is true as well. Is it better to announce new features in advance to avoid looking like we copied them, or to keep it under wraps so as not to tip off the competition? Do we have to worry about anything resembling patent issues?
* Dave incidentally also works on the Frankencamera, which was featured on Slashdot a few weeks ago.
** For completeness, about 4 weeks into the review process, Apple very reasonably asked that a small change be made to the UI. We made the change, tested it, and resubmitted within 48 hours."