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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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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.


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