Putting the APP in Apple: Does Apple own ‘app store’?

Jan 13, 2011
Finance

Apple (AAPL) iPhone may “own” the smartphone market by virtue of being the market leader in sales. And it may “own” the app market because hundreds of thousands of apps are available for the iPhone. But does Apple own the words “app store”? Apple thinks so. But long-time rival Microsoft (MSFT) doesn’t. Todd Bishop at […]

Apple (AAPL) iPhone may “own” the smartphone market by virtue of being the market leader in sales. And it may “own” the app market because hundreds of thousands of apps are available for the iPhone.

But does Apple own the words “app store”?

Apple thinks so. But long-time rival Microsoft (MSFT) doesn’t. Todd Bishop at Seattle blog TechFlash said his homeboys are “fighting for the right to use those words for its own mobile application store.”

Microsoft has asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to deny Apple exclusive rights to use the name “App Store,” maintaining that app store is a generic term. Microsoft argued in a court filing this week for summary judgment that Apple “should not be permitted to usurp (app store) for its exclusive use.”

Microsoft wants to use the term “App Store” for its own mobile app store.

“Any secondary meaning or fame Apple has in ‘App Store’ is de facto secondary meaning that cannot convert the generic term ‘app store’ into a protectable trademark,” Microsoft told the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. “Apple cannot block competitors from using a generic name. ‘App Store’ is generic and therefore in the public domain and free for all competitors to use.”

Microsoft noted out that Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs even has used the phrase generically, referring in an interview to new Google (GOOG) Android “app stores.” In addition to Google’s own app Marketplace, Amazon (AMZN), Verizon Wireless (VZ) and Vodafone (VOD) have all announced that they are creating their own Android app stores.

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Apple stands by its ownership of the term, contending the “predominant usage of the expression ‘app store’ in trade press is as a reference to Apple’s extraordinarily well-known APP STORE mark and the services rendered by Apple …”

To follow the legal ping-pong, go to Microsoft’s filing: PDF, 27 pages and for Apple’s side go to Apple’s trademark filing.

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