Microsoft takes a bite at Apple over ‘App Store’ trademark

12 Jan 2011

Microsoft has taken issue with Apple’s claim to the trademark ‘App Store’ and has asked the US Patent and Trademark Office to deny Apple a trademark for the name because it says the term is generic.

In 2008, the same year that Apple launched its App Store for the iPhone, it applied to trademark it as a “retail store services featuring computer software provided via the internet and other computer and electronic networks.”

The App Store is the lynchpin of Apple’s entire iOS and Mac strategy going forward and is the primary method by which users of the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices update their devices, as well as source new apps.

However, Microsoft has filed a case with the US Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeals Board, asking it to deny Apple the ‘Apps Store’ trademark.

Is ‘app’ a generic term?

It says ‘app’ is a generic term for what is sold at the App Store and that ‘store’ is also generic for retail store services.

In its filing, Microsoft said: “The undisputed facts further show that the combined term ‘app store’ is commonly used in the trade, by the general press, by consumers, by Apple’s competitors and even by Apple’s founder and CEO Steve Jobs, as the generic name for online stores featuring apps. A search of Westlaw’s US ALL NEWS database found over 1,000 current articles using ‘app store’ as the generic name for stores featuring apps.

“Indeed, in a recent interview, Apple CEO Steve Jobs criticised the proliferation of app stores for Google’s competing Android platform as follows: ‘In addition to Google’s own app marketplace, Amazon, Verizon and Vodafone have all announced that they are creating their own app stores for Android. There will be at least four app stores on Android which customers must search through to find the app they want and developers will need to work to distribute their apps and get paid.’”

The app phenomenon

Mobile and desktop apps represent a pivotal force in the development of the software industry going forward.

Apple has in excess of 300,000 apps available for download on its App Store and last week launched its App Store for MacBook computers.

Google’s Android Market has more than 100,000 and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 ecosystem has attracted 4,000 new applications in just a few weeks.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years