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Apple sues Amazon over use of 'App Store' trademark

post #1 of 87
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Apple has sued rival Amazon, accusing the online retailer of violating its "App Store" trademark with the competing Amazon Appstore for Android.

The complaint was filed by Apple on March 18 in California, and accuses Amazon of trademark infringement and unfair competition. According to Bloomberg, the Cupertino, Calif., company has asked the court to prevent Amazon from using the "App Store" name.

Apple also seeks unspecified damages in the complaint, which takes aim at the Amazon Appstore for Android. Amazon's digital download destination for Android devices will compete with Google's own official Android Market.

"Amazon has begun improperly using Apple's App Store mark in connection with Amazon's mobile software developer program," Apple's complaint reads. It accuses Amazon of "unlawfully" using the App Store trademark to attract developers to its platform.

U.S. trademark law requires the owner of a trademark to vigorously defend its use. Failure to do so could result in the trademark becoming a generic description synonymous with a service, like a digital online storefront.

Apple says in the complaint that it contacted Amazon three times and requested they cease using the "Amazon Appstore" name, but the iPhone maker claims it did not receive a "substantive response." A spokeswoman for Apple told Bloomberg that Amazon's storefront name will "confuse and mislead customers.

Ownership of the App Store trademark was filed for by Apple shortly after the launch of the original iPhone App Store in July 2008. Since then, the App Store has also expanded to the iPad, and Apple launched the Mac App Store earlier this year.

Apple's rivals have objected to the App Store trademark, as Microsoft filed an objection to the application in January. The Redmond, Wash., software giant has argued that the trademark filing should be rejected because the term 'app store' is generic.

For its part, Apple countered in court by arguing that "App Store" is no more generic than "Windows," the name of Microsoft's ubiquitous operating system. Apple said that Microsoft's efforts to maintain its "Windows" trademark should have made it "well aware" that the term "App Store" is generally associated by the general public with Apple's products.
post #2 of 87
Amazon better change it to Store Front or whatever because they will lose this case.
post #3 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post

Amazon better change it to Store Front or whatever because they will lose this case.

I am not so sure. I think Apple has the much weaker footing here.
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post #4 of 87
"App Store" was not in general use before Apple's App Store.

In fact, before Apple came along, hardly anyone said "app." Now it's common usage. But Apple popularised it.

Take a look at this Google Trend data:

http://www.google.com/trends?q=app%2...n%2C+app+store

"App" is now a more common search term than "application" and is about equal for news references. You can clearly see this started with the launch of the App Store in 2008.

So I think Apple has a good case with "App Store."
post #5 of 87
This is going to be interesting.
post #6 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by poke;

"App Store" was not in general use before Apple's App Store.

In fact, before Apple came along, hardly anyone said "app." Now it's common usage. But Apple popularised it.

Take a look at this Google Trend data:

http://www.google.com/trends?q=app%2...n%2C+app+store

"App" is now a more common search term than "application" and is about equal for news references. You can clearly see this started with the launch of the App Store in 2008.

So I think Apple has a good case with "App Store."

So? What about gas station, grocery store, used car lot? All of these terms where at one time "not in general use" and coined by an individual or company, then they became common.
post #7 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Apple says in the complaint that it contacted Amazon three times

Oh come on, that's no excuse: everyone knows you can't get Amazon customer service to respond - even if you DO email them 3 times!
post #8 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I am not so sure. I think Apple has the much weaker footing here.

Please elaborate.
post #9 of 87
Apple should win the case. App is not even a generic English word.
post #10 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by Champ View Post

Please elaborate.

I think Apples App Store or iApp Store or Mac App Store would be fine, but simply App Store is too generic to trademark. I think there is evidence that the term predates Apples usage, but even if they did popularize it I think that the term has genericized long before they tried to trademark it thus making it impossible to now own.
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post #11 of 87
I seem to recall "Web App" being in common usage in the early 2000s, so I'm not sure what claim Apple has to the word App.
post #12 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by Champ;

Please elaborate.

As I stated above. There are many generic terms that at one time were not generic but over time they have. Gas station, grocery store, used car lot ect....... At one time these terms were coined by a witty individual or company. No one was suing when "Joe's Used Car Lot" opened next to Bob' Used Car Lot.
post #13 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hellacool View Post

So? What about gas station, grocery store, used car lot? All of these terms where at one time "not in general use" and coined by an individual or company, then they became common.

I don’t think you’ve researched those markets fully. Were those trademarks? If so, the creator of the trademark Gas Station might have had some legal grounds, and if their trademark were properly defended from copycats, the competition might have ended up calling them fuel stores I’m sure Amazon too can come up with another name.

Here’s one for free out of the goodness of my heart: Amazon Mobile Marketplace. Give it a nice AMM logo with the Amazon arrow underneath.

The App Store trademark doesn’t seem all that important to me, but I suppose it’s still worth the money to defend it.
post #14 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I think Apples App Store or iApp Store or Mac App Store would be fine, but simply App Store is too generic to trademark. I think there is evidence that the term predates Apples usage, but even if they did popularize it I think that the term has genericized long before they tried to trademark it thus making it impossible to now own.

Thanks, that makes sense.

Kind of like going into your favorite eatery and chowing down on some tasty apps.
post #15 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I think Apple’s App Store or iApp Store or Mac App Store would be fine, but simply App Store is too generic to trademark. I think there is evidence that the term predates Apple’s usage, but even if they did popularize it I think that the term has genericized long before they tried to trademark it thus making it impossible to now own.

Could be, and I don’t blame Amazon for trying, since the more they can piggyback off of Apple-generated mindshare, the better for them; but I’m thinking it couldn’t be “genericized” if it wasn’t in widespread use by people, and it surely wasn’t until the iPhone.

And there are precedents: such as Windows, and, hey... Amazon’s own 1-Click
post #16 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I think Apples App Store or iApp Store or Mac App Store would be fine, but simply App Store is too generic to trademark. I think there is evidence that the term predates Apples usage, but even if they did popularize it I think that the term has genericized long before they tried to trademark it thus making it impossible to now own.

If that were the case, Lindows would have never lost their case.
post #17 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by Drealoth View Post

I seem to recall "Web App" being in common usage in the early 2000s, so I'm not sure what claim Apple has to the word App.

I googled web app. The usages are all combination of webapp.
post #18 of 87
Another way to view this...if Amazon didn't think the term "App Store" had value, they wouldn't use it.
post #19 of 87
Quote:
For its part, Apple countered in court by arguing that "App Store" is no more generic than "Windows," the name of Microsoft's ubiquitous operating system.

Anymore than OSX is operating system ten???

Doesn't appear to be TM though. I could be wrong - it isn't here but this same page says that doesn't mean anything.

http://www.apple.com/legal/trademark/appletmlist.html

Not sure why "killer app" isn't brought up - people used the short form of applications for ages.
post #20 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post

If that were the case, Lindows would have never lost their case.

They didn't lose their case

Quote:
As early as 2002, a court rejected Microsoft's claims, stating that Microsoft had used the term "windows" to describe graphical user interfaces before the product, Windows, was ever released, and that the windowing technique had already been implemented by Xerox and Apple many years before[4]. Microsoft kept seeking retrial, but in February 2004, a judge rejected two of Microsoft's central claims[5]. The judge denied Microsoft's request for a preliminary injunction and raised "serious questions" about Microsoft's trademark. Microsoft feared that a court may define "Windows" as generic and result in the loss of its status as a trademark.

Microsoft settled by paying $20 million for the Lindows name.

edit: source

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_v._Lindows
post #21 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I think Apples App Store or iApp Store or Mac App Store would be fine, but simply App Store is too generic to trademark. I think there is evidence that the term predates Apples usage, but even if they did popularize it I think that the term has genericized long before they tried to trademark it thus making it impossible to now own.

I like your point. To take it a step further...

Maybe I don't understand trademark law fully, but why would they grant a trademark to a generic term that wouldn't be upheld?

Second...can't generic terms be trademarked? The Container Store comes to mind.
post #22 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by sprockkets View Post

They didn't lose their case



Microsoft settled by paying $20 million for the Lindows name.

They paid the costs of Lindows legal investment and were required to never use the name again, in exchange for Office document format interchange, and patent protection.

Quote:
On 13 June 2007, Linspire and Microsoft announced an interoperability collaboration agreement with a focus on document format compatibility, instant messaging, digital media, web search, and patent covenants for Linspire customers.[17] This agreement has been criticised, most notably by the Groklaw website[18] for being disingenuously short-lived and limited, and against the spirit of the GNU General Public License. Kevin Carmony, in one of the regular "Linspire Letters," asserted that the agreement would "bring even more choices to desktop Linux users [and] ... offer a "better" Linux experience."

Quote:
In July 2004, Microsoft offered to settle with Lindows.[6] As part of this licensing settlement, Microsoft paid an estimated $20 million US, and Lindows transferred the Lindows trademark to Microsoft and changed their name to Linspire

Explain again how Microsoft lost? They silenced Linspire by gaining silence in the press with this cross license agreement.


Ruling: http://www.silicon.com/technology/so...ling-39118328/

Quote:
The US District Court in Seattle ruled Wednesday that the jury in the case should "consider whether the Windows mark was generic" before Windows 1.0 entered the marketplace in 1985. It also said that even if the "primary significance" of the term is not generic today - that is, has been displaced by the proprietary use - the trademark is not necessarily valid.

The upshot is that the open-source company can continue using its name for now, but legal hurdles remain. The judge postponed the current March 1 trial date, itself a delayed start, to an unspecified time, pending an appeal from Microsoft. Microsoft has held that only present-day use of "windows" should be considered by the court to assess the current validity of the trademark.

Company spokeswoman Stacy Drake said Microsoft would promptly pursue the appeals opportunity. "We're very encouraged the judge has granted our request to ask the Court of Appeals to provide guidance and clarity on this issue," she said.

Daniel Harris, Lindows' lead trial counsel, said in a statement that the win was a major blow to Microsoft. "The court's ruling confirms that a company, no matter how much money it spends, cannot buy a word out of the English language. These repeated filings by Microsoft are just another attempt to deplete our resources by dragging these legal proceedings on for as long as possible."

Microsoft, which hopes to ban the company from using its Windows-spoofing name, has had some court rulings go in its favour. For example, the Benelux injunction forced Lindows to stop selling or advertising its products, cancel all outstanding orders and stop users in the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium from accessing its site.

As I stated in the beginning of this thread: Amazon better change their name. Nothing about App Store was generic before Apple brought it to prominence.
post #23 of 87
I agree that Apple has the upper hand. They made "apps" ubiquitous. Before that, there were applications and programs, but apps were barely a nickname.

Web apps? Please. They are web sites.

No one sold apps before the iPhone.
post #24 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post

They paid the costs of Lindows legal investment and were required to never use the name again, in exchange for Office document format interchange, and patent protection.





Explain again how Microsoft lost? They silenced Linspire by gaining silence in the press with this cross license agreement.


Microsoft lost the case about invalidating "Lindows". If they pushed the issue further, they might have lost "Windows."

If you agree to change your name for $20 million dollars, how is that losing or being "silenced"? Microsoft potentially avoids losing their TM of Windows, the lawsuits stop, and both can move on in life.
post #25 of 87
isn't the letter "X" trademarked by Marvel Comics... uh... Disney...?

How generic is that?
post #26 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post

They paid the costs of Lindows legal investment and were required to never use the name again, in exchange for Office document format interchange, and patent protection.

Explain again how Microsoft lost? They silenced Linspire by gaining silence in the press with this cross license agreement.

It has nothing to do with winning or losing, it has to do with your initial claim to my post regarding Lindows. That, plus the $20M payout and this new info above (that you supplied) is more sufficient evidence to conclude that MS did not feel they had a solid case for their trademark claim. Do you think that Windows was what all GUI-based OSes were called? I don’t, yet I hear the term apps being thrown around for pretty much everything these days. Apple might be beaten by its own success.
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post #27 of 87
If app is generic and not trademarked, and store is the same, how can they simply stick them together and call them unique? It's a simple two word phrase that to me says 'this is a store that sells apps', not 'this is an apple app store'.
post #28 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by halfyearsun View Post


Second...can't generic terms be trademarked? The Container Store comes to mind.

The way I understand it, you can trademark new uses or combinations of generic terms. People who bring up the term "killer app" don't seem to get this. NO ONE thinks that Apple has claim to the term "app." Or "store" for that matter. It is the unique combination of those two common terms that Apple has a shot at. Clearly, they popularized the term "App Store" for a place to buy mobile applications.

The issue gets sticky in the details. Did it become so popular so fast that it became genericized before Apple could cement a trademark?
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post #29 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bageljoey View Post

The way I understand it, you can trademark new uses or combinations of generic terms. People who bring up the term "killer app" don't seem to get this. NO ONE thinks that Apple has claim to the term "app." Or "store" for that matter. It is the unique combination of those two common terms that Apple has a shot at. Clearly, they popularized the term "App Store" for a place to buy mobile applications.

The issue gets sticky in the details. Did it become so popular so fast that it became genericized before Apple could cement a trademark?

You think putting app with store makes it unique? OK.

The argument that it will also cause confusion between using itunes/an apple device as the only means to access the app store vs. Amazon Android app store is very weak.

But, this is the same company that justified banning google voice over "confusion" over the dialer.
post #30 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Reed View Post

If app is generic and not trademarked, and store is the same, how can they simply stick them together and call them unique? It's a simple two word phrase that to me says 'this is a store that sells apps', not 'this is an apple app store'.

That isnt a sound argument. A string of words can be copyrighted and trademarked if they are unique. You can also trademark new uses for a word, like Apple or Amazon. I can make a book company called Apple books and a computer company called Amazon. but I cant make a CE company called Apple nor an online book company called Amazon without those companies taking issue with it.

They still might take issue with the other setup if the logos make it confusing. Unlike patents that allow owners to sit and wait to maximize their lawsuits, the longer you sit and wait on a potential trademark infringement the less defensive your position becomes. Unfortunately this can mean an aggressive defense of a patent.
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post #31 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by chabig View Post

Another way to view this...if Amazon didn't think the term "App Store" had value, they wouldn't use it.

And not particularly relevant a view.
post #32 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bageljoey View Post

The way I understand it, you can trademark new uses or combinations of generic terms. People who bring up the term "killer app" don't seem to get this. NO ONE thinks that Apple has claim to the term "app." Or "store" for that matter. It is the unique combination of those two common terms that Apple has a shot at. Clearly, they popularized the term "App Store" for a place to buy mobile applications.

The issue gets sticky in the details. Did it become so popular so fast that it became genericized before Apple could cement a trademark?

But if they don't have a trademark on the word 'app', wouldn't it be a strong argument for 'app store' being generic? It would seem to be purely descriptive in plain English at that point - a store that sells apps.
post #33 of 87
Unlike patents, trademarks have to be aggressively defended. If you don't like it, blame the legal system. Apple can't *not* defend this if they want to follow through on the "App Store" trademark.

As far as I'm concerned, the App Store trademark is no more ridiculous than Amazon's "One Click" patent.

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post #34 of 87
Apple will win big and Amazon will lose big.

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post #35 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Reed View Post

But if they don't have a trademark on the word 'app', wouldn't it be a strong argument for 'app store' being generic? It would seem to be purely descriptive in plain English at that point - a store that sells apps.

I think you have the foundation for a very strong argument.
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post #36 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hellacool View Post

So? What about gas station, grocery store, used car lot? All of these terms where at one time "not in general use" and coined by an individual or company, then they became common.

Swing and a miss. Not even close.
post #37 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by sprockkets View Post

You think putting app with store makes it unique? OK.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Reed View Post

But if they don't have a trademark on the word 'app', wouldn't it be a strong argument for 'app store' being generic? It would seem to be purely descriptive in plain English at that point - a store that sells apps.

Come now, there are thousands of examples of common usage words that are trademarked because of unique usage. Just looking around my kitchen, I see these trademarks:
KitchenAid
Sharp
Hot Point
Profile
General Electric
Foodtown
The Gourmet Weight

I could go on, but I think this makes the point...
None of these words are "unique" infact they are all rather common. Again, no one seriously claims that App Store is something that no one else could have thought of--just that no one was using the term before Apple.
Apple then made it seem obvious--isn't that exactly what trademark protection is for? So someone can't piggyback off of your success?
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post #38 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hellacool View Post

So? What about gas station, grocery store, used car lot? All of these terms where at one time "not in general use" and coined by an individual or company, then they became common.

If you called them 'ga station', 'gro store', and 'u-car lot', respectively, that would be analogous to what Apple is doing here.
post #39 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I am not so sure. I think Apple has the much weaker footing here.

Apple pretty much is required to sue Amazon for this though because they have to vigorously defend the trademark. They can't be counter suing Microsoft claiming it's a super important unique trademark and then turn around and say "well, we're cool with Amazon". Even if they lose, they have to do it.
post #40 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I think Apples App Store or iApp Store or Mac App Store would be fine, but simply App Store is too generic to trademark. I think there is evidence that the term predates Apples usage, but even if they did popularize it I think that the term has genericized long before they tried to trademark it thus making it impossible to now own.

I think there's a difference between 'app' and 'App'. And, the fact that App also is also homonymous with 'Apple' probably works in Apple's favor.
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