As reported in recent news, Apple are suing Amazon in an effort to prohibit them naming their application marketplace the ‘Appstore’. Apple’s case is forged on the belief that the term is too similar to their own trademarked name ‘App Store’, claiming that it will result in confusion for its customers looking for their store.
Whether this will indeed disorientate Apple users remains up for debate, however the real issue in this case appears to be whether “App Store” is a legitimate trademark for Apple to own.
One company who certainly don’t think so is Microsoft. They are currently contesting Apple’s successful attempt to trademark the term on the grounds that it is too generic, but a verdict on this is still pending. This rather confused legal triangle means the continuation of Apple’s claim against Amazon is reliant on a favourable result for Apple in the on going case with Microsoft.
This battle on two fronts is therefore centred on the term ‘App Store’. Opinion is split on whether it is a general descriptive term akin to ‘shoe shop’, or if Apple has established a distinctiveness that makes it their brand outright.
Once again, this is a subject that is up for debate, as the perception of the term is likely to vary amongst different users and demographics. However if Apple are able to display that the term has gained, what Lawyer Evan Brown calls “acquired distinctiveness”, then its trademarking of the term is a fully legitimate one.
Irrespective of whether this trademark will remain in place, as things stand Apple is currently in possession of it and therefore its legal action against Amazon is well within its legal remit.
Critics have argued that Apple are being petty, but with a growing number of distributers and competitors entering the app market, Apple need to defend their advantage rather than allow for the water to be muddied. For a company that places such a premium on the user experience, it would be out of character for Apple not to take this action.
Amazon have not yet commented on the legal tussle, but its hard to imagine they didn’t realise naming their store the “Appstore” would invoke Apple’s wrath. It might be a cynical view, but a crafty PR victory for Amazon’s new store might be the only certain outcome of the affair.
Although Apple’s legal action is likely to prove unpopular amongst technology companies and enthusiasts alike, Apple is not in the habit of charitable donations to its competitors, and so with the law currently on their side, it is not surprising that they have made it a matter for the courts.