Google patents a way to flag pirated Play Store apps

by: Bogdan PetrovanApril 5, 2014

play store aa

App piracy and app cloning is a real problem on Android. Searching for just about any popular app in the Play Store reveals dozens of apps that are clearly designed to confuse users into downloading them, even if they have nothing to do with the real thing.

Google has explicit policies against misleading or trademark-infringing apps, but with over a million apps in the Store and no human review process for each upload, shady apps constantly sneak in. The company currently relies on user feedback for flagging bad apps, but a newly granted patent gives us hope that a better solution could be coming in the future.

The patent, first filed in July 2013 and awarded last week, describes an algorithm that compares the assets of a submitted app (code, images, audio, data files) with those of “authorized” apps that were uploaded by established developers. For instance, a legitimate app that was modified to include malware would fail this test. The same would happen with apps that are simply re-named clones of other apps submitted as original work.


It’s not clear whether this algorithm will be able to identify loose similitudes between apps or will just flag assets that are obviously copied. The patent mentions a way to identify open source code, so apps based on it would pass the test. Also worth noting is that filing for a patent is no guarantee that the invention will ever make it into a real product.

It’s likely that the filtering system will be a part of the suite of tests that Google runs on new apps. For instance, Google currently checks for malware and for illicit mentions of other applications in the description, and probably runs other undisclosed tests as well.

  • MasterMuffin

    I really REALLY hope this works

    • Jayfeather787

      Because I too am tired of seeing two thousand flappy bird clones on the play store.
      I think this is a problem.

      Edit: Is that… Fappy bird? Looks like someone got busy.

      • MasterMuffin

        Every app that has had any popularity (even apps that are only for iOS) have +10 copies of them. Play Store may have the most apps, but I bet half of them are garbage

      • Android Developer

        clones are not pirated apps.
        they are just similar apps.
        and it’s a good thing you have a choice of apps, even if many of them are similar.

        • Jayfeather787

          I know that, but it sure is annoying.

      • Tjaldid

        I strangely want to play Flappy Doge

      • Luqmaan Mathee

        Flappy Doge is the best clone.

      • WestFiasco

        I once saw flappy sperm somewhere.

        • undercoverduck

          betcha ass it was developed by the creator of fappy bird

          • WestFiasco

            lol, the origin story.

      • undercoverduck

        fappy bird tho

      • Darcy Poe

        Fappy bird! :D Wonder what we are supposed to do in that game! :D

  • Bone

    They better make sure legal sideloaded content doesn’t count as pirated.

    • Tuấn Ankh

      I think the “pirated apps” mentioned in the article referred to clones and fake apps on the Play Store. It shouldn’t have anything to do with sideloading apk.

  • Mhmd Ahmd

    They better make sure legal sideloaded content doesn’t count as pirated.

  • Salman Thaw

    I’m sad that Google and Apple had a race-for-the-numbers for apps in the stores. It resulted in tons of crap that you have to filter to. Now the Play Store is just like Youtube. You have to filter through tons of garbage to get to something good. It’s sad for app developers to have to compete with garbage apps that self-rate and buy ratings.

  • Milton

    Android is for poor people who can’t afford $0,99, that explains all the piracy

    • Crapple

      U just proved u r one of the faggots of internet.

    • Pasalacqua

      If you’re going to troll, at least read the article and not just the headline.

      • Milton

        There’s no need to, android and piracy always go together, somehow

        • Pasalacqua

          Sure, you keep telling yourself that, iSheep. An OS for teenage girls, seniors and the simple-minded.

          • Milton

            Who’s the sheep? The true is that android is crap, and IOS too

          • Hank

            If you think Android is crap, why are you on a site called Android Authority?

          • Milton

            To say a universal truth

          • Hank

            You must lead a very sad, lonely life.

  • go ANDRIOD

    Apple sucks their so restricted


  • Ahmet C.

    Mobile app stores are built on cloners. All of the top games are clones of some less known flash games.

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