Update 23rd May
We have finally heard back from Apple who have notified us that before they will reinstate our app they need to hear from Subsplash, which has not yet happened. We have reached out to Subsplash, asking them to notify Apple that the dispute has been ended on the basis that our app will be resubmitted under a distinctly different name in the US App Store.
Update 15th May
Unfortunately we find ourselves in the same position we were in 2 weeks ago. Apple have not responded to any of our emails and the offers of help that had been made by others have failed to materialise. We continue to regularly reach out to Apple and have sadly had to instruct a solicitor to further engage with Subsplash - we had been hoping to resolve this Biblically and without the need for legal representation. Behind the scenes, we are pushing every door possible to resolve this situation.
At 1am on Friday 28th April, we received an email from Apple stating that they had removed our app from the App Store as a result of a trademark infringement complaint by a US company, Subsplash, based on a trademark they had recently been granted in the US.
Since this occurred, we have reached out to Apple multiple times and have had a fruitful conversation with Subsplash who offered to help us communicate with Apple in order for our app to be reinstated.
As a company, we have always sought to be transparent with our customers and repay the trust you place in us. If you have any unanswered questions after reading this blog post, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
How does this affect our customers?
Whilst this situation is deeply unfortunate and incredibly frustrating for both us and our customers, ChurchApp is fully functional through the browser, our Android app and also for all customers who have previously downloaded our iOS app. For anyone who already has our iOS app installed, we do not believe that Apple will remove it from their device, and anticipate that it will remain fully functional whilst we attempt to resolve this situation.
For customers who do not yet have our iOS app on their device, it is sadly not presently possible to download it, however ChurchApp remains fully functional by going to https://login.churchsuite.com in Safari and logging in there. You can also create a shortcut back to your ChurchApp account by following these steps.
As we continue to attempt to get in touch with Apple to resolve this situation, we will provide updates through our blog and also through Facebook and Twitter. Behind the scenes we will continue trying to push every door possible and are confident that this will be resolved in full in the near future.
The history of ChurchApp
Back in 2008 the founder of ChurchApp, Gavin Courtney, felt like God was calling him to build an online database system for the Church. Since 2004 he had been building internal systems for his local church, Trent Vineyard in Nottingham, with more and more churches expressing an interest in using them. The following months saw vision-filled conversations and early planning with friends and church leaders, before settling on the name ChurchApp at the start of 2010.
During 2010 and the start of 2011, planning and the early stages of development of ChurchApp began, before the earliest invitation-only alpha users were given access to begin using the system in July 2011. In January 2012 we launched publicly, in May 2013 we launched our app to the App Store and today we serve over 800 churches across 25 countries worldwide.
Trademark complaint by Subsplash
On January 26th 2017, we were notified by Apple that Subsplash had filed a trademark infringement complaint against ChurchApp, requesting that our app be removed from the App Store. We had not received any prior communication from Subsplash before they launched this complaint.
As we investigated the situation, we discovered that Subsplash had been granted a US-only trademark for “The Church App”; we had attempted to trademark “ChurchApp” within the UK in September 2012 but had been denied on the grounds that the mark consisted of common dictionary words and was simply descriptive of what the app was and who it was for.
We reached out to Subsplash and in the weeks that followed had several fruitful conversations. It felt like there was common vision to serve the Church and a common purpose to help extend the Kingdom between both ChurchApp and Subsplash. Our conversations ended in prayer and with a sense of mutual respect, with ChurchApp agreeing to explore ways, including changing the app name, to ensure that within the US App Store our app, “ChurchApp”, could not be confused for “The Church App”, which is a platform for other churches and not an app in and of itself.
Our iOS app removed from the App Store
On Friday 28th April we woke to discover that, without any further communication from Subsplash, their lawyers had requested that Apple entirely remove our app from the App Store. Apple responded by removing our app from the App Store, making it unavailable worldwide, despite Subsplash’s US-only trademark.
We immediately attempted to have our app reinstated in all countries excluding the US (as a temporary measure), however we have had no response from Apple regarding this as yet.
We also immediately reached out to Subsplash in order to try and understand the situation and how we had ended up where we now find ourselves. Last night, Wednesday 3rd May, we were able to have a fruitful conversation with Subsplash where they expressed their surprise that our app had been removed from the App Store worldwide and agreed to help us try and communicate with Apple.
As we have sought to try and deal with this situation according to the Biblical model, brother to brother and without the need for lawyers, we have kept as much information out of the public domain as possible. This was not an attempt to cover up the situation or deceive our customers, but rather to see Jesus honoured through our actions. As customers asked questions publicly through social media, we responded privately through email with as much detail as we felt was appropriate.
Where are we now?
Despite our best efforts, we have had no communication back from Apple since they removed our app from the App Store. We have emailed more than once each day, but none of our emails has had a response; there are no other means of contacting Apple other than by email. We are thankful that Subspash have agreed to try and help us in contacting Apple in order to get our app back online. Right now, we’re at the mercy of Apple and when they choose to respond to our emails. Unfortunately we have no idea how long this might take.
What will it mean for the future?
We anticipate that our app will be accepted back into the App Store in the near future, however in the US App Store, in order to comply with Subsplash’s US trademark, it will exist under a slightly different name. We have begun a conversation with Subsplash in order to try and find a new name for the US that is not too different but that does not infringe Subsplash's US trademark.
In all other aspects of our service, it’s business as usual - we continue to develop and grow the system with exciting new features that support the local Church. We love the Church and are passionate about it; we’re excited to be a part of God’s Kingdom being extended as the local Church uses ChurchApp to achieve its mission.
We truly appreciate your grace, understanding and prayers as we continue to work through this tricky situation. If you've got questions, we're here to help and answer them.