Can I Have An ‘App Store’ Too?
Apple would like you to call it something else. In July of 2008, Apple filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office attempting to trademark the phrase ‘app store.’ Apple’s competitors (Google Apps, Blackberry App World, HP App Catalog, etc.) weren’t too pleased, as this meant they might have to bust out their thesauruses and find alternative names for their “app stores” pending the result of Apple’s trademark claim. On January 10 of this year, Microsoft took affirmative action against Apple by filing a motion with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office arguing that Apple’s attempt to trademark ‘app store’ should be dismissed because it is a generic term and thus not protectable as a trademark. Apple’s position throughout the entire ordeal has been that “any unauthorized use of the APP STORE mark by [unaffiliated] retailers is considered an attempt to trade on the goodwill associated with the Applicant’s well-known APP STORE mark.”
When most of us hear the word ‘app,’ we think of Apple, considering that apps were popularized primarily via Apple’s iPhone. At the same time, ‘app’ is really just a generic term for any standalone bit of software. Of course, any term that just describes the goods or services in use cannot be trademarked. So, has Apple’s ‘App Store’ argument rebutted that presumption in this case? Should Apple be allowed to trademark ‘app store’? The Wall Street Journal conducted a poll, and 65.3% of respondents did not think so.