Back in 2020, Cub Club filed a lawsuit against Apple for copying the diverse emoji skin tones from its iDiversicons app and integrating them into iOS. Nearly two years after the allegation, a judge has finally thrown the case out of court and ruled in favor of Apple.
As noted by 9to5Mac, Cub Club says that it met with Apple back in 2014 to discuss the idea of a partnership, which was declined. Then in 2015, the new Unicode standard introduced emoji with diverse skin tone, which Apple adopted with some customizations into iOS. Cub Club alleged that these diverse emoji were actually ripped off from its iDiversicons app.
U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria has finally ruled in favor of Apple, stating that since there are "only so many ways" to make distinctly diverse emoji, Cub Club's emoji would have to be almost identical to Apple's in order to make a strong claim of copyright infringement. Since this is not the case, the lawsuit is being dismissed. The judge even went on to highlight the differences between the two sets of emoji, noting that:
As alleged in the complaint, Apple's emoji are not “virtually identical” to Cub Club's. Compared side by side, there are numerous differences. Whereas Cub Club's emoji are filled in with a gradient, the coloring of Apple's emoji are more consistent. The shape of Apple's thumbs-up emoji is cartoonish and bubbled, while Cub Club's is somewhat flatter. Many of Cub Club's emoji have shadows; Apple's do not. Even the colors used are distinct—although both Cub Club and Apple have chosen a variety of skin tones ranging from dark to light, the specific colors vary. These differences are sufficient to take Apple's emoji outside the realm of Cub Club's protected expression.
There are a couple of other reasons for dismissing the lawsuit too, and if you're into legalese, you should check out the official court document here (via Reuters). All in all, one would hope that the emphatic nature of this ruling is enough to convince Cub Club, but the company does have 14 days to file an amended complaint. However, Judge Chhabria has cautioned that "having seen many of the emoji side by side in the complaint, the Court is skeptical that Cub Club will be able to allege copyright or trade dress infringement in an amended complaint."