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Microsoft trying to block Apple’s ‘App Store’ trademark

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By Charles Starrett

Contributing Editor
Published: Wednesday, January 12, 2011
News Categories: Apple, Apps + Games

Microsoft has confirmed that it is attempting to block Apple’s trademark application for the phrase “App Store.” BBC News reports that Microsoft has asked the US Patent and Trademark Office to reject the application on the basis that it is too broad. “An ‘app store’ is an ‘app store’,” said Russell Pangborn, Microsoft’s associate general counsel. “Like ‘shoe store’ or ‘toy store’, it is a generic term that is commonly used by companies, governments and individuals that offer apps. The term ‘app store’ should continue to be available for use by all without fear of reprisal by Apple.” Apple first filed for the trademark in 2008, and this week launched its second application store—the Mac App Store—alongside the release of Mac OS X 10.6.6.

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Comments

21

If Microsoft were to want to copyright “To the cloud” based on their inane ads, I’d get that.  It’s a term, comprised of generic words, that they are trying to use to identify their mark.
“App Store” is the same for Apple. 
MS copyrighted “Windows” when they weren’t even the first to put them into a GUI.  That seems pretty ridiculous.
“Macintosh” is a name for apples, the fruit, yet it’s copyrighted. 
Are copyrights only to be given to new, made-up words like Pepsi?
I think a lot of this stuff is stupid too - but to pick on Apple here neglects the 1000’s of companies and individuals doing the same.  It’s a new world where branding is everything.  The term FaceBook is made up of two words too.  Where does it end? Why do we care?  It’s their time/money that is spent on this.

Posted by sb on January 12, 2011 at 6:36 PM (PDT)

22

Imagine Apple is suing people because their last name is"Apple”. I love Apple’s products but to trademark some generic words, I just think it is plain silly.

Posted by kiwibee on January 12, 2011 at 7:26 PM (PDT)

23

To everyone saying that the word ‘App’ is generic and you can’t trademark it, Microsoft has a trademake on one ‘AppLocker’  which let’s the user lock which applications are used. Not to mention that fact Microsoft has trademarks on words like ‘Windows’, ‘Word’ and ‘Office’ and such.

So why can’t Apple trademark ‘App Store’ ?

Posted by Andy in London, UK on January 12, 2011 at 8:38 PM (PDT)

24

@CodeMonkey, Like Jeremy said put aside your clouded judgment because this is an Apple vs. Microsoft case. It’s clear a lot of the arguments here are because biased opinions on ones feelings toward a particular company. Like he said a Judge will have to put aside all biased opinions. Also like Jeremy’s example about Starbucks naming Cofshop, how about if Starbucks back then would have trademarked “CoffiShop”? It is clearly misspelled, but we understand the meaning, and I am sure it would be legitimately trademark-able. Again App was not a common term used for software prior to Apple coining the phrase and particularly App Store. “Software” was common and so was Applications (although Application is referred “programs” on the Mac), but “App” is a misspelled and/or a short form for Applications no different than “Coffi” would be to Coffee. Also like another commenter said why does every trademark name have to be a made up name? Why can it not be common words that are already in the Dictionary, like “Get a Mac”, “Windows”, “Office”, “FaceBook”,....“App Store”! Get my drift? Apple was first and spent Millions on Advertisement to coin the phrase “App Store” and I believe they have the right to it!!

Posted by Michael on January 12, 2011 at 9:53 PM (PDT)

25

Andy from UK.. completely agree with you.

Posted by Lydia on January 13, 2011 at 8:03 AM (PDT)

26

@24: Wow, can you be any more incorrect? I don’t think so. It’s precisely NOT because it’s an Apple vs. Microsoft. I dislike ALL corporations equally. If people see me as overly critical of Apple on these comment pages, it’s only because this is an Apple-centric website and Apple behaving badly is the most common subject raised to which I bother to respond. I have as much or more criticism for all wrong and stupid actions by other corporations whatever brands they represent. My opposition is only because Apple’s case is asinine, idiotic, weak, and based upon a corporate culture of using lawyers and the corruption of money to violate any sense of fair play and sanity.

An app store sells apps. The term,“app”, whether the apologists stepping up and claiming the sky isn’t blue knew it or not, was in use for at least two decades prior to the iTunes App Store. If the success of the iTunes App Store has brought the term and the notion of an app store into the general awareness more than in the past that doesn’t make the concept or descriptor Apple’s any more than “Coffee Shop” (not the strawman Jeremy used and you parroted) belongs to Starbucks (or “shoe store” to Payless. This case is little different than Microsoft deliberately tying the web browser to the OS and then claiming no matter what the laws for fair competition were they simply couldn’t make it removable by the user without breaking Windows. The case is specious on the face of it: Now that the smartphone market has become so large and contested, this is an attempt to use their existing market share to keep that market share unfairly by not allowing others to name their apps stores, well, “app stores”.

It simply is not trademarkable in any non-corrupt system. If Apple is awared this trademark it’s just more sign of how broken our system is.

Think about this with an acutal sense of relative logic: You go into the iTunes Store, you see the following categories: Music, Movies, TV Shows, App Store, Podcasts, iTunes U, and Ping. Now, either Apple owns, or should own, trademarks on all those terms considering that before Apple’s iTunes store the notions of commercial, non-label specific digital music, movie, tv show, and podcast stores was not part of the general awareness, or maybe outside of Apple’s original use of “iTunes U” and “Ping”, they have no claim to any of those terms as trademarks because whether they were popularized in the general consciousness by Apple or not, the terms and general notion were hardly created by Apple.

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on January 13, 2011 at 8:26 AM (PDT)

27

@26 - Ok. I believe that you are separating specific companies and addressing only the acts. But I think this is more akin to a conspiracy theory. Apple popularized “App Store”. Whether anyone was using the term prior (which I am not convinced anyone ever did), Apple put it out there as a formal name for a specific store. Not the “generic” description of a store that sells apps. And the fact that Apple started their app business by calling it “App Store” inside iTunes instead of the generic music, movies, TV shows, points to their having a plan to market it as it’s own entity from the beginning.

With that said, the fact that Apple is attempting to trademark a phrase that they popularized is fine by me. I am not versed in copyright law. I leave such menial tasks to those that made that their career. If the lawyers and judges decide that this is within the bounds of that set of laws, so be it. I could care less. This issue affects less than 1% of the world population. Your corruption theory just seems a bit extreme in my opinion. Which, as laymen, is all that we are spewing here…our opinions.

Posted by Mitch on January 13, 2011 at 12:21 PM (PDT)

28

Mitch, I’m not going to re-argue this case specifically, just point out why I care: Just because no one may have ever used the exact phrase “App Store” prior doesn’t make trademarking it any less idiotic, it is and always will be as obvious a name as “shoe store” or “sub shop”. When we allow corporations to take ownership of common language, we all lose something, not just your less than 1%.

We’ve got to stop handing over power over so much to the imaginary super beings of corporations. They’re just legal constructs created to deal with taxation issues, and now we grant them the power to claim for any and all time the ownership of names given to new inventions and concepts? The burden to say some company literally owns part of our common language ought to be a lot higher than simply having your lawyers give you the idea to call the apps tab of your iTunes Store “App Store” instead of just “Apps”.

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on January 13, 2011 at 1:38 PM (PDT)

29

Every corporation that does not trademark a made up name (Pepsi, Microsoft, Google) is claiming some kind of ownership on our common language. That does not stop the common folk from using language. It merely stops other corporations from profiting from those specific words, terms or phrases. Dairy Queen is two common words used to market a food chain. I use dairy and queen in everyday speech with no fear of copyright infringement. But, if I start selling ice cream and market, say, my wife/head scooper as the “dairy queen”, I should expect a cease and desist order. Plain and simple.

And before you redirect me to the “shoe store”, I will just say that had copyright law and the information super-highway been around before shoes and the subsequent “shoe store” some enterprising cobbler would have locked it down. App was not commonly used before Apple started using it for their mobile software offerings. Therefore I, and obviously many others, feel that they have the right to APPLY for that trademark. I will again say that there is an entity that is there to act as the gatekeeper. They do not just let anyone have copyright to any thing. There is some form of scrutiny. If you as a citizen feel that they are corrupt, vote differently. Lodge complaints. Force change in whatever way you feel is called for. I, and again many others, do not see this blatant corruption quite the same as you do. I see a company that has marketed well and has a claim that is worthy of a fair judgement.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to go stare out my framed sheets of glass. I would say my windows, but obviously Microsoft has stolen that word from the common man.

Posted by Mitch on January 13, 2011 at 2:38 PM (PDT)

30

“And before you redirect me to the “shoe store”, I will just say that had copyright law and the information super-highway been around before shoes and the subsequent “shoe store” some enterprising cobbler would have locked it down.”

Exactly, which is all the more evidence how idiotic defending Apple in this case is. I am obviously nearly alone on this board, yet in my every day life I can find no one who sides with Apple on this, hmmm…

Anyhoo, obviously you are all either so uncaring of the principles or so bamboozled by how much you like your retina displays to obey common sense and apply simple logic. I wager Apple loses this one, although that hasn’t stopped them from buying the domain name for http://www.appstore.com, but for now it just redirects to a page not found error on apple.com, guess they’re not so sure they’re going to win the process either wink

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on January 14, 2011 at 1:37 PM (PDT)

31

You may be dead on that Apple looses this particular battle. I am not saying otherwise in any way. My personal opinion is that they have a pretty decent chance of winning this. But, as I have said all along, I am not versed in copyright law.

I will be 100% unaffected whether they win this or not. I would certainly not site corruption however they rule. It is a muddy area to begin with. That is why there are courts dedicated to it.

My guess is that http://www.appstore.com will eventually redirect to an iTunes download site. The new Mac App Store is an app itself within OS X. There is no redirect that could point to that. At most, it could lead to a splash page that states this product is “not supported by your operating system” for non-OS X users or one that states “you must be running OS X Version 10.x.x” for the Apple folks. Although, I would not be surprised if Apple is not already thinking about making a Windows compatible program much like they did with iTunes. I am sure it would be equally panned, as I hear Windows iTunes is pretty annoying compared to the native Apple version.

Posted by Mitch on January 15, 2011 at 10:20 AM (PDT)

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