Apple orders App Store listing service to drop the term “App Store”

Apple orders App Store listing service to drop the term “App Store”

With the Apple App Store copyright issue far from being resolved, Apple has begun issuing cease and desist orders to websites using the term, including the Wireless Industry Partnership (WIP), as it tries to defend its trademark.

Just a day after it announced iOS 5 to the world, Apple sent a cease and desist letter to the group, asking it to stop using the term “App Store” in the title of its App Store Catalog and App Store Reports services, noting that it “improperly suggests to U.S. consumers that numerous companies offer an APP STORE mobile download service, when in fact the term APP STORE refers exclusively to Apple’s groundbreaking download service.”

WIP’s App Store Catalog exists to list the burgeoning number of mobile application marketplaces around the world, whereas its Reports (quite obviously) gives developers a look at some of the metrics of different App Stores.

Apple’s war on inappropriate use of the term “App Store” began it filed a claim to trademark the term ‘App Store’ to prevent its rivals from using the same term for their own stores.

Microsoft challenged the claim, arguing that the term is a generic name, a name that it believes Apple can not lay exclusive claim to. It stated that “undisputed evidence shows that ‘app store’ is a generic name for a store offering apps” suggesting 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”. According to Microsoft, ‘App Store’ is generic, in the public domain and free for anyone to use.

WIP is in a difficult position; with consumers referring to marketplaces as an “App Store” on many different platforms, its reports and listings have been enjoyed by many across the world.

It writes:

And now it hits out at our attempts to support developers by helping them navigate the maze of distribution channels available to them — including all the alternate channels outside of Apple’s own (trademarked) App Store. Apple’s repeated actions to wield control over its own ecosystem creates the impression that the developers in it live at Apple’s behest; its attempt to control the generic term “app store” suggests that it’s trying to extend that control beyond its own ecosystem as well.

So what are we going to do? We’re not sure yet, but we are talking the matter over with our own lawyers. It’s probably also worth pointing out that Apple’s trademark of the term is being challenged both in the US and Europe by a number of companies. But regardless of the outcome, our services for developers and our mission to support them won’t change, no matter what Apple and its lawyers try to force upon us. At our Muther! of all Hackathons event later this month, we were planning to have some sessions on app store submission and placement optimization strategies. If we refer to it “application download service submission strategies” will anybody know what we’re talking about?

It looks like another battle that could be challenged in the courts.

Apple, without doubt, innovated the industry when it first launched the App Store, but like Google, it has become a generic term for a place to download apps, similar to how people now “Google” something instead of search.

We will keep up with WIP’s progress and update you as soon as either party makes any moves.

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