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Amazon's "Appstore for Android" and Apple's "iTunes App Store", side by side in web form.

  (Source: 20th Century Fox)
Lawsuit is a major test of generic trademarks in the tech industry

Amazon.com, Inc., the U.S.'s largest e-tailer, refused to listen to Apple, Inc.  After all Apple couldn't possibly think it could legally enforce its "ownership" of the term "app store" could it?

Well Amazon.com tested Apple's resolve, rolling out a third-party app store for Android (Google allows such things), dubbed "Appstore for Android".  The new app store launched today featuring over 3,800 apps, including Angry Birds: RIO, which is available for one day only as a free promotional download.

Apparently Apple deemed that term was sufficiently close to "App Store", for which it was granted a trademark.  It filed suit in northern California federal court.

Apple is seeking unspecified damages and an immediate cease and desist, preventing Amazon from using the name.  Apple's lawyers write, "Amazon has begun improperly using Apple’s App Store mark in connection with Amazon’s mobile-software developer program.  Amazon has unlawfully used the App Store mark to solicit software developers throughout the United States."

The gadget maker may be hoping to have a home court legal advantage.  Amazon.com is based out of Seattle, Washington.  Companies often try to press intellectual property cases in their home state.  While there is supposedly no bias, the local company often wins.

Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman for Apple states, "We’ve asked Amazon not to copy the App Store name because it will confuse and mislead customers."

Apple says in the court filing that it contacted Amazon.com with threats three times and only filed the suit after it failed to respond.

The suit raises serious question about whether trademarks on generic terms inherently associated with a type of business are unfair.  In recent years the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has granted many such trademarks.  

For example, Apple owns the terms "App Store"  (applications are a general term for software) and "iMovie" (here the letter 'i' was merely appending on the word movie for a movie related software).  Similarly, Adobe owns the term "Illustrator" (illustration is a term meaning "drawing" and all drawing programs acts as an "illustrator", so to speak).  And Microsoft owns the names "Windows" (all modern operating systems feature windows) and "Word" (all word processors use words).

The issue of generic trademarks definitely needs to be resolved, as these lawsuits not only wreak havoc in the business world, but also cost the public tax money, as the federal court system where they're contested isn't free by any means.  In the meantime, it should be interesting to see how Apple's crusade against Amazon.com goes.

Apple was passed by Android last year in U.S. and global sales. 

Microsoft is currently suing Apple, claiming the term "App Store" is too generic and was improperly granted a trademark by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.



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speaking of generic trademarks
By AssBall on 3/22/2011 9:40:47 AM , Rating: 5
Does anyone find it ironic that a company named after a generic common fruit is filing the naming trademark suit here?




RE: speaking of generic trademarks
By callmeroy on 3/22/2011 9:50:28 AM , Rating: 5
Agreed.

I can't stand these kinds of suits -- I find them ridiculous. Generic language should not be able to be trademarked at all .. period. I don't give a rat's ass how relevant it is to your product or company image or not. Its ridiculous. Windows shouldn't be trademarked, Apple should be trademarked and certainly "app" shouldn't be either.


RE: speaking of generic trademarks
By Motoman on 3/22/2011 10:01:25 AM , Rating: 5
Windows and Apple are both fine - those weren't terms used in conjunction with their industry until they were coined.

"App" is a clearly generic abbreviation for "application" and as such is already ingrained into the popular lexicon with that understood meaning. It's no more unique than saying you had a "liquor store" or a "cupcake store."


By FITCamaro on 3/22/2011 10:51:37 AM , Rating: 3
Agreed. Apple themselves generalize the term with "there's an app for that". People were calling applications "apps" long before the iPhone and Apples commercials made the term more popular.

Now if you want to start calling your applications "shinies" or something then you might have a legitimate case for a trademark.


RE: speaking of generic trademarks
By Solandri on 3/22/2011 2:48:16 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
Windows and Apple are both fine - those weren't terms used in conjunction with their industry until they were coined.

Windows referred to a generic term used in the industry prior to Microsoft's OS (or back then, GUI shell for DOS). So is on shakier ground that Apple.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Window_%28computing%2...

Where "Windows" and "App Store" differ is that Windows is an operating system. The "App Store" is an app store. Trademarking "App Store" is more akin to if Microsoft had called DOS "Operating System" or "OS" and trademarked those terms. Then filed lawsuits to prevent anyone else from calling their operating system an operating system or OS.

The whole point of a trademark is to distinguish yourself from your competitors. Not to strike common words from the lexicon available for competitors to describe their product. What next, someone trademarking a food chain called "Fast Food"? What if Toyota had trademarked their Prius as "Hybrid"? Maybe instead of trademarking "Personal Computer", IBM should have just trademarked "Computer" and offered personal, small business, and corporate versions? How would that have worked out for the computer, I'm sorry, computing device industry?


By bighairycamel on 3/22/2011 6:11:00 PM , Rating: 3
Here's another interesting thought:

Ever wonder why the "e" is left out of Blu-Ray. It's because it was determined the term blue-ray was too common and they couldn't trademark a term that is used in everyday speech.... How many times have any of us used the term blue-ray other than to describe the laser disc format? And yet that term was too generic?

Also, I always thought trademarks had to carry a logo. Hence, why Microsoft could trademark the term "Windows" because it carried with it an artistic logo. As far as I know, the Apple "app store" does not have a specific logo.


RE: speaking of generic trademarks
By Motoman on 3/22/2011 7:45:40 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Windows referred to a generic term used in the industry prior to Microsoft's OS


...ROFL. "In the industry?" You mean in 2 or 3 research centers. Give it up. Read your own link.

Windows categorically did not become an industry term until Microsoft released that OS.

Your other points are fine - indeed, what if someone had trademarked the term "computer?"


RE: speaking of generic trademarks
By sprockkets on 3/22/2011 9:05:52 PM , Rating: 2
You can read also a judges opinion about it as well:

quote:
As early as 2002, a court rejected Microsoft's claims, stating that Microsoft had used the term "windows" to describe graphical user interfaces before the product, Windows, was ever released, and that the windowing technique had already been implemented by Xerox and Apple many years before[4]. Microsoft kept seeking retrial, but in February 2004, a judge rejected two of Microsoft's central claims[5]. The judge denied Microsoft's request for a preliminary injunction and raised "serious questions" about Microsoft's trademark. Microsoft feared that a court may define "Windows" as generic and result in the loss of its status as a trademark.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_v._Lindows


RE: speaking of generic trademarks
By Motoman on 3/23/2011 12:55:15 AM , Rating: 1
Of course they used it before the product was released. You think nobody at Microsoft ever uttered the word "windows" before the boxes were on the shelves?

All you've done is cited a case presided over by a judge that has no clue about technology. Which sadly seems to be all of them.

At any rate - you'll notice that Microsoft still holds the rights to the "Windows" trademark. Just as Apple still holds their rights - despite the fact that both are real words that existed before industry use. There's no reason to doubt the validity of those trademarks - no one confuses Windows for OS/2 or Snow Leopard. "App store," on the other hand, is extremely generic, and could easily introduce consumer confusion...it's too generic to be a viable trademark.


By sprockkets on 3/25/2011 10:13:41 PM , Rating: 2
All you shown is that you are a dumbass who allows his opinion on a subject to cloud his judgment because he thinks he knows more about trademark law than a person who deals with that for a living.


RE: speaking of generic trademarks
By Solandri on 3/23/2011 1:14:21 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
...ROFL. "In the industry?" You mean in 2 or 3 research centers. Give it up. Read your own link.

Windows categorically did not become an industry term until Microsoft released that OS.

I'm sorry, you're simply wrong. It was widespread in the industry. If you did anything related to graphics, you knew the term long before Windows was released. Whenever you addressed a subsection of the screen using its own coordinate system, it was called a window or a viewport. I was a gangly teen doing rudimentary graphics on my Atari and Apple IIe at the time, and I knew that.


RE: speaking of generic trademarks
By rburnham on 3/22/2011 3:08:31 PM , Rating: 4
Hey... I want to go to a cupcake store.


RE: speaking of generic trademarks
By callmeroy on 3/22/2011 10:05:13 AM , Rating: 2
** correction : Apple should NOT be...


RE: speaking of generic trademarks
By Mitch101 on 3/22/2011 2:33:52 PM , Rating: 3
John Stewart was right in calling them APPHOLES!


RE: speaking of generic trademarks
By Flunk on 3/22/2011 10:33:46 AM , Rating: 5
Also Apple Computer was sued by Apple Records who actually won the suits, several times. Apple Computer (now Apple Inc.) was restricted in product lines for years until they eventually bought Apple Records to save them the annoyance.


By Kiffberet on 3/23/2011 8:47:46 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, The Beatles sued Apple computers for using the name 'Apple' and eventually Apple computers settled in the 80's, on the condition that Apple computers could not sell, or have anything to do with music.

When itunes came out, selling music, Apple had broken the agreement and so they went back to court. Eventually they settled out of court [again], and it was only recently that Beatles music could be bought through Itunes.

Apple records is still owned by the Beatles.



RE: speaking of generic trademarks
By Misty Dingos on 3/22/2011 12:03:55 PM , Rating: 2
I could be completely wrong here. So feel free to ravage my rating and call me names.

But the more a copy written term or phrase is used without action being taken by the copyright owner the harder it is for them to continue to maintain the copyright. The result being that copyright becomes without merit.

So if Apple does not release its team of cybernetic lawyers to savage anyone and anything they see as infringing on their turf, they essentially loose their copyright.

So no one should be surprised by continued jackassery of the Apple corporation. They are just keeping their lawyers from turning on their corporate overlords which is what bored cybernetic lawyers like to do.


RE: speaking of generic trademarks
By Motoman on 3/22/2011 12:16:51 PM , Rating: 3
Wrong. Just like Monster Cable isn't in the right by suing a mini-golf course called "Monster Golf" just because it has the word "monster" in it.

Frivolous lawsuits are frivolous.


RE: speaking of generic trademarks
By Misty Dingos on 3/22/11, Rating: -1
RE: speaking of generic trademarks
By Motoman on 3/22/2011 1:37:51 PM , Rating: 2
...at this point the entirety of the internet is aware that you should be discounted...in your entirety.


RE: speaking of generic trademarks
By Solandri on 3/22/2011 2:59:33 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
So if Apple does not release its team of cybernetic lawyers to savage anyone and anything they see as infringing on their turf, they essentially loose their copyright.

What you're saying does not apply to copyright. Failing to enforce your copyright does not mean you lose it.

It is, however, true for patents and trademarks. You have to enforce those. If a court finds you haven't been defending your trademark or patent in a timely manner, you can lose them.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laches_%28equity%29

That said, people's gripe with Apple here is not that they are defending a trademark, but that the trademarked name is way too generic.


RE: speaking of generic trademarks
By bah12 on 3/22/2011 5:02:06 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
That said, people's gripe with Apple here is not that they are defending a trademark, but that the trademarked name is way too generic.
True, but to his point even if it is generic, if they have any hopes of keeping it they must try to defend/enforce it.

Just don't point the finger at Apple, point it at the fubard trademark office. Hell if they gave me a trademark for the letter T, it would be foolish of me not to try and keep it. Can't really blame the appholes for trying to defend this, makes perfect sense to do so.


By gorehound on 3/22/2011 4:41:25 PM , Rating: 2
this is a real stupid excuse for a lawsuit.
glad i have only bought an IPOD and nothing else from them.
these kind of lawsuits sicken me.they are disgusting.


By VinnyRandy on 3/22/2011 8:48:22 PM , Rating: 2
Concur. Next time you want to use the word "apple", you have to call it "red fruit" or you will get sued.


RE: speaking of generic trademarks
By deanx0r on 3/23/2011 7:26:07 AM , Rating: 1
Apple has the 'App Store'.
Google has the 'Android Market'.
Microsoft got the 'Windows Marketplace'.

And Amazon cannot figure out a proper name?


RE: speaking of generic trademarks
By mooty on 3/23/2011 10:05:34 AM , Rating: 2
What the hell are you gonna name an app store? Name it Amazon's android marketplace? The fact of the matter is, that apple should have never been granted a TM for an app store that is called an app store. It's utterly ridiculous, like the rest of the US's trademark and patent laws.
Like:
- Look, I wanna patent this wheel!
- Ooook, but wheels have been in use for god knows how long!
- Yes-yes, but this one is green!
- Well, ok then, here's your patent for wheels!


Two words for Apple
By bigboxes on 3/22/2011 9:53:37 AM , Rating: 3
Ef U!




RE: Two words for Apple
By RedemptionAD on 3/22/2011 1:05:11 PM , Rating: 2
Fah-Q. This lawsuit is sofa kingdom and we todd did.


RE: Two words for Apple
By ApfDaMan on 3/22/2011 1:29:03 PM , Rating: 2
Its like they are begging people to hate them.


RE: Two words for Apple
By kleinma on 3/22/2011 2:05:17 PM , Rating: 2
Other than people who already hate apple, I don't think this lawsuit is going to change much in terms of opinions. How many of your average iPhone humping sheeple will even know about this lawsuit or care even if they do know?


RE: Two words for Apple
By FreeTard on 3/23/2011 10:28:13 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. My first thought when I saw this a few days ago was that I hoped someone at Amazon just spit on a piece of paper and mailed it over. Or wait... is that under Apple copyright somehow?

I wonder how many Apple freaks hate Amazon now because of this? I can picture the pretension and the blathering about how Amazon is evil because they're ripping off Apple. The debate has to be making baby Jesus cry.


I can't help myself...
By HoosierEngineer5 on 3/22/2011 12:00:15 PM , Rating: 5
"confuse and mislead customers."

Isn't that Job's job?




RE: I can't help myself...
By ie5x on 3/23/2011 4:42:21 AM , Rating: 2
As per the rumors, isn't he supposed to be dead already!?


I can see...
By Alexstarfire on 3/22/2011 10:04:56 AM , Rating: 2
how confusing it must be for people. Ohh wait, no I can't. Amazon is calling it "Appstore for Android." If you're confused by that then you'd probably also be confused by "this iPod belongs to my mother." It's very specific.

As for whether it's legal or not... I have no idea. I think they'll probably have to change the name.




RE: I can see...
By Helbore on 3/22/2011 10:52:21 AM , Rating: 2
It's ridiculous, isn't it? The Apple App Store is only availabe on Apple devices. The Amazon appstore for Android is only available on Android devices. How can customers get confused when there stores are only available on exclusive platofrms.

Or in other words, it would be impossible for an iPhone owner to go to the appstore for Android by accident, as you can't get it on iPhone.

It's a stupid trademark anyway. It's like trademarking "Grocery Store" and then suing small town "Betty's grocery store" for breach of trademark. Common sense doesn't seem to exist in big business legal circles.


RE: I can see...
By mooty on 3/23/2011 10:10:15 AM , Rating: 2
Well, common sense is not so common. But there's a lot of sense behind it. Be it twisted. Without these outrageous trademarks and patents, how would the poor lawyers get their big fat pay-checks?


Sad day
By MrTeal on 3/22/2011 10:08:44 AM , Rating: 2
It will be even worse when they win. I think the comments on the last article about MS suing Apple to invalidate the trademark were pretty thorough in denouncing this, but it's just a shame to see this happening. App has be short for application software for decades. They may have gotten a trademark from some public servant who didn't exercise due diligence, but that doesn't mean it's valid.

I really hope Amazon wins this one.




RE: Sad day
By bupkus on 3/22/2011 11:27:24 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I really hope Amazon wins this one.

OMG, you must be another Apple/Steve hater... ;) </sarcasm>


iApp?
By cjohnson2136 on 3/23/2011 3:48:30 PM , Rating: 2
Why doesn't Apple just do that for its app store. Call it the iApp store so the pattern between ipod, iphone, and ipad all stay the same.

Whether it catches on or not I am forever calling it the iApp Store and all apps from it are iapps :)




RE: iApp?
By PrezWeezy on 3/23/2011 8:49:50 PM , Rating: 2
You should trademark that and then hold Apple for $10 million ransom when they try to use it.


Apple =
By Cheesew1z69 on 3/22/2011 9:56:46 AM , Rating: 3
Fail




App Store is too generic
By rwpritchett on 3/22/2011 11:28:04 AM , Rating: 2
In other news: the "Whole Foods" grocery store chain is suing every market in the world for selling... whole foods. Film at eleven. /sarcasm




Advertising for Amazon
By ET on 3/22/2011 12:05:30 PM , Rating: 2
If it wasn't for this news I wouldn't have realised Amazon opened its app store today. Unfortunately after installing it and trying to get an app I get a message that the store isn't available in my region.




See...
By rburnham on 3/22/2011 3:10:10 PM , Rating: 2
This is just another reason why every time a commercial for Apple products comes on, I point at the TV and shout, "Fuck you!" It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.




Apple
By masamasa on 3/22/2011 10:19:35 PM , Rating: 2
Apple = idiots. These meritless lawsuits are a joke. In fact, they are probably part of their marketing campaign. Sorry Apple, but you can't name your company since Granny Smith 'Apples' were around long before you! And that logo with the bite out of the apple...that needs to go too.




Application Store? The suit has merit.
By KnightBreed on 3/22/11, Rating: -1
By RedemptionAD on 3/22/2011 1:11:34 PM , Rating: 2
How many devices are called i devices that don't belong to Apple? Henry Ford got the term car to the masses and Alexander graham bell made telephone popular. After a certain period of popularity a term becomes public domain. Although Velcro was in that realm until recently which is why we see hookless fastener on things instead of Velcro. It's a frivolous lawsuit.


RE: Application Store? The suit has merit.
By Solandri on 3/22/2011 3:11:34 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Like it or not, Apple brought the term "app" to mainstream vernacular.

/facepalm
Apple is succeeding in rewriting history...

"App" and "application" have been in use since at least the 1980s (possibly even longer, I only got into computers in the 1980s). The term is used to refer to end-user software (Word, Photoshop, Quicken, etc), as opposed to system software (operating system, drivers, etc).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Application_software

The term Apple introduced to the vernacular was "applet", NOT "app".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Applet


RE: Application Store? The suit has merit.
By KnightBreed on 3/22/11, Rating: 0
By Looey on 3/23/2011 2:26:56 PM , Rating: 2
You're never lived or worked in a computing environment if you think Apple made the term app mainstream. Apple has made the word app mainstream for people who have no background in business or computing environments. There are millions of people in customer service support groups, computer operators, system support and programmers who know and have known for years what an app is.


By Looey on 3/23/2011 2:20:20 PM , Rating: 2
Apple is a johhny come lately using the term app. I was around computers starting in the late 1960's and the term application or app was used by everyone back then. Ask any programmer or computer operator what the term app or application stood for. It's a common name for a program than ran on a mainframe in the data centers that churned out reports for end users. It is still used in mainframe environments and I'm sure on servers too. I'm thinking someone will copywrite every word in the English language and wait for a company to use it so they can sue them for cash. That's about as absurd as Apple going after Amazon for using app.


"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007














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