Amazon Asks Court to Throw Out Apple App Store Lawsuit
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.
Chad September 27, 2012 um 11:16 pm
"I do think that it would be remarkably silly if “app store” became a trademark of Apple."
Too late – it already is:
"All these lawsuits smack of rules lawyerism—take advantage of every possible opportunity to sue a competitor and slow them down, because you can."
I would agree with you that it is rather annoying, especially for something seemingly generic. However, that is the unfortunate part about trademarks and service marks. As part of the decision to register your mark, you have to be willing to defend it. And defending it means filing suit when there is infringement on your mark. Suing in that case is not "because you can," but rather because you have to.
While we may disagree that the mark should never have been allowed in the first place, that doesn’t matter. It has been filed, and registered, and Amazon is quite aware that it is infringing on the mark.
So I would argue that the lawyerism and games here are being played by Amazon – forcing Apple to spend money on defending their mark. I’m quite sure that when they started using the term, they knew Apple would be forced to defend it.
Peter September 28, 2012 um 11:22 am
Well, this is just me being cranky, but I don’t like it when ecommerce/ digital operations use the term "store" in the first place.
"Stores" are called that for a reason- they physically store things. What are you "storing"?
Call it the "app market" or "app center" or something.
If anything, "app store" should refer to the actual Apple stores at the mall, not the website.
That’s neither here nor there for the lawsuit, it just bugs me.
LCNR September 28, 2012 um 12:29 pm
Aren’t trademarks filed with USPTO for the US only? What about the use of "app store" internationally? (I couldn’t find any "app store" registered with WIPO, but I’m not sure I did the search right, it’s less straightforward than with USPTO.)
LCNR October 1, 2012 um 8:01 am
I didn’t think to check locally (silly me): "app store" is of course filed with INPI (the French USPTO), both as a French and as a Community trademark, as I’m sure it is elsewhere, too.