Apple sues Amazon for using "app store" mark

Ronny Kerr · March 22, 2011 · Short URL:

On the eve of Amazon Appstore launch (with Angry Birds promotion), Apple's lawyers start swinging

And the question resurfaces: should any one company own the phrase “app store”? Apple seems to think so.
The Cupertino, Calif. company is suing Amazon for trademark infringement and unfair competition, arguing that the online retail site has overstepped legal boundaries by naming its soon-to-launch app store the “Amazon Appstore.” (That’s not a typo. Amazon spells it all as one word.)
The Amazon Appstore, which is coming (vaguely) “very soon,” will support Android devices in the United States at launch. Later down the line, the store will likely become an open distribution platform for other mobile platforms as well. In preparation for the store’s launch, Amazon has kickstarted a developer program and has even announced that the store will be the exclusive distributor of Angry Birds Rio, a new version of the insanely popular iOS game Angry Birds.

Amazon’s ambitious plans for the Appstore might be slowed, however, by Apple’s complaint.

“Amazon has begun improperly using Apple’s App Store mark in connection with Amazon’s mobile software developer program,” reads Apple’s complaint. “Amazon has unlawfully used the App Store mark to solicit software developers throughout the United States.”

The lawsuit, which will be brought before a court in the Northern District of California, is an important one because it is one of a couple cases dealing with Apple’s right to trademark a phrase that companies, customers, the media--everyone--uses generically to refer to a distribution center for mobile applications. Most companies, like RIM with App World and Google with Android Market, have tended to avoid stepping on Apple’s toes.

But not everyone’s letting Apple sit pretty on its highly valuable trademark.

Back in January, Microsoft filed a motion with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to revoke Apple’s exclusive use of “app store,” likening it to generic phrases such as “grocery store” or “laptop store,” which might seem ludicrous for a company to trademark. The filing makes a powerful point by quoting Apple CEO Steve Jobs as referring to the Android Market as Google's "app store."

In anticipation of the new store’s launch, Amazon has already pinned down a couple Twitter accounts (for developers and consumers) and a Facebook page, all three of which have well over 10,000 followers combined.

I sure do hope none of those followers were confused into thinking that they just discovered a cool place to hear about new apps for their iPhone. (Come on, Apple...)

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