Apple sues Amazon over App Store

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Apple has accused of trademark infringement for using the term ‘App Store’ for their mobile software download service.  In their complaint filed on March 18, they ask the Federal court in California to prevent Amazon from using the term ‘App Store’ and to pay damages. This suit follows one we discussed on this blog where Microsoft sought to prevent Apple from trademarking the name ‘App Store’ on the ground that it is too generic.

In Apple’s complaint, the company said, ‘Amazon has begun improperly using Apple’s App Store mark in connection with Amazon’s mobile-software developer program.’  According to the case report, Amazon had been using the name ‘App Store’ since the beginning of the year. It was after Amazon began advertising the game ‘Angry Birds Rio’, which is a popular game sold in Apple’s App store that Apple issued proceedings.

As pointed out in our earlier report about Microsoft’s objection to the mark, the argument is that the term ‘app store’ is a generic one. App has been used for years by those in computing as a shortened name for ‘application’. As noted by the New York Times, the word ‘app’ is in widespread use, and the word ‘app’ has even been awarded the American Dialect Society’s 2010 word of the year.  This demonstrates how widely used the term now is. It is not surprising that there are a number of disputes concerning the trademarking of the term. In this case, Russel Pangborn, Microsoft’s associate general counsel, said in January ‘Like shoe store or toy store, it is a generic term that is commonly used by companies, governments and individuals that offer apps’.

Apple is set on protecting its mark

However, Apple is still set on protecting its trademark. In the case with Amazon, Apple has stated that they have tried to contact Amazon three times to try to prevent the website using the name, but declared Amazon had not ‘provided a substantive response’.  Apple believes that it will confuse and mislead customers if Amazon continues to use ‘App Store’ as their name.

Apple and Amazon have been direct competitors the past few years, selling  similar merchandise. Both sell digital music, films and eBooks. Now the two companies will be competing in their mobile software stores.

Amazon hopes that its trusted brand will help to give it an edge over other companies’ also selling mobile applications.

Apple is not the only company protecting a seemingly generic trademark. As the New York Times flags up, both Facebook and Microsoft also are protecting names that could be seen as generic. Facebook’s trademarking of the words ‘face’, ‘book’, ‘like’ and ‘poke’ has already led to a dispute with a website called ‘Teachbook’. Microsoft fought a lawsuit with Linux over their decision to name their operating system ‘Lindows’, where it was Linux who claimed that the name ‘Windows’ was too generic (Linux has since changed their systems name to Linspire).

The verdict is still out on whether Apple can trademark the name ‘App Store’, following the lawsuit with Microsoft.  However, Apple’s latest move against Amazon indicates that it will be fighting Microsoft and pursuing its plan to trademark the term ‘App Store’