Microsoft is fighting Apple’s attempt to trademark the term ‘App Store’. Surely the USPTO will exercise common sense on this one.
Back in 2008, Apple filed papers with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office (USPTO) requesting the trademark ownership of ‘App Store’. A year after the filing, the USPTO opened it up to objections from Apple’s competitors. Nothing happened for a further year until this week when Microsoft filed its own opposition claim in order to force the USPTO to reject Apple’s request.
Why did it take a year? No one seems quite sure, but it probably isn’t a coincidence that the opposition claim came in the same week Apple launched its new App Store for Mac, which has the potential to increase sales of Apple’s computers. While Microsoft is also involved in the mobile sector, computers are its bread and butter.
As noted by The Next Web, the Microsoft filing includes the following:
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.
So the question the USPTO faces is whether the term ‘App Store’ is generic or not. If so then Apple cannot claim ownership as far as I understand, even though it did popularize the term. What surely won’t help Apple’s case is the fact that Steve Jobs has himself used the term ‘App Store’ in a generic fashion, saying:
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.
Surely there can only be one conclusion to this: Apple failing in its overbearing and frankly ludicrous attempt to own such a generic term. I never thought Facebook would be matched for stupidity on this score, as it is famously fighting to own the trademark not just to ‘Facebook’ but also to ‘Face’ and ‘Book’ when used with any other word. But Apple has risen to the challenge.