The move follows Apple’s attempts to trademark the term, registering with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to prevent other companies and rival application marketplaces from being able go under the same heading.
Microsoft is fighting the application, registering its own opposition filing (PDF here) with the US Trademark Trial and Appeal Board stating that “undisputed evidence shows that ‘app store’ is a generic name for a store offering apps”. Microsoft’s lawyers write in the summary judgement that:
“Any secondary meaning or fame Apple has in ‘App Store’ is de facto secondary meaning that cannot convert the generic term ‘app store’ into a protectable trademark.
Apple cannot block competitors from using a generic name. ‘App store’ is generic and therefore in the public domain and free for all competitors to use.”
Microsoft argues that the media now use the generic term to cover lots of different mobile application marketplaces and is not specific to the iPhone, it even states that Apple CEO Steve Jobs has used the phrase generically – he was quoted referring to Android Market competitors by the term:
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.
With Steve Jobs mentioning those all-important words when referring to rival app marketplaces, it could demonstrate that Microsoft has a point.
The US Patent and Trademark Office is going to have its work cut out, although it has moved to block generic word combinations in the past. Terms such as “The Computer Store”, “Log Cabin Homes”, “Candy Bouquet”, and others have been denied by the body.
Should Microsoft successfully block the filing, it would intend on using the term for its own offerings, as would many other companies judging by how they currently market their applications:
Microsoft contends that Apple has registered the term to build on its early success but as mobile applications have become ubiquitous, it can no longer control how the media and general public refer to the “app stores”. It cites precedents that have merit, it’s very possible Microsoft could prevail in this battle.
What do you think? Should Apple have control over the term ‘App Store’? Let us know in the comments.