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
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
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
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. Microsoft kept seeking retrial, but in February 2004, a judge rejected two of Microsoft's central claims. 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.