About 18 months ago, Apple sued Amazon for false advertising and trademark violation over using the term “app store” to describe its, well, Android app store—which is to say, the store where you go to buy apps. The wheels of justice grind slow but fine. Yesterday Reuters reported Amazon has submitted a filing asking a judge to throw out the lawsuit, on the basis that the term “app store” was so generic that it shouldn’t be considered false advertising.
I was amused to note that Amazon includes mention of times Apple CEOs Steve Jobs and Tim Cook even used the phrase generically to discuss competitors’ stores. Did Apple’s CEOs make false and misleading statements during their earnings calls, Amazon wonders?
The whole thing is really pretty ridiculous. Does Apple seriously think people will confuse Amazon’s app store with its own? For one thing, the applications run on completely different devices. For another, as I’ve said before, it’s like Wal-Mart trying to trademark the term “discount store,” or Barnes & Noble trying to trademark “book store”. The formulation of “X store” as “store where you buy X” shouldn’t be trademarkable except where X is someone’s brand name. “App” has been an abbreviation for “application” for as long as programs on computers have been called applications. That ship has sailed.
But it seems like Apple has turned its focus from innovation to litigation lately. All these lawsuits smack of rules lawyerism—take advantage of every possible opportunity to sue a competitor and slow them down, because you can. It’s sad that this is the direction the company has taken. But at the same time, I have to admit it would be foolish in the extreme to try to pretend this isn’t the way that big business has always worked.
I’m not sure I’m really rooting for either side in this case, but I do think that it would be remarkably silly if “app store” became a trademark of Apple. Hopefully the court can see some form of reason.