21
Mar
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Amazon's upcoming Android Market competitor, the Amazon Appstore, is in hot water for its namesake. On Monday, Apple filed a lawsuit in a California federal court claiming Amazon had infringed on its trademark of the phrase "App Store." Apple applied for a trademark to this name way back in 2008, but it wasn't approved until January of 2010. Since then, Microsoft has filed a dispute with the trademark office alleging that the grant was improper. That complaint's outcome is still pending.

In the meantime, Amazon may have a difficult time asserting that its use of "Appstore" (as opposed to "App Store") doesn't violate Apple's trademark - it's hard to deny that Apple's App Store is a well-know name in the mobile world. Amazon has refused to comment on the litigation for the moment, as is their policy.

The legal determination to be made here is whether or not "Appstore" is sufficiently different from "App Store" to negate a finding of infringement. Of course, if Microsoft's complaint had the trademark nullified, Apple's suit would be a moot issue.

The question the judge will ask (the jury, perhaps) is likely to be if a reasonable consumer would find the "Amazon Appstore" and the "Apple App Store" likely to promote confusion between the two products, as the names are not technically identical. It's an interesting case, and one that largely depends on Apple's ability to maintain its death grip on the "app store" name.

If Amazon feels they can't win this one, the Appstore will likely have to undergo a name change. Honestly, it doesn't sound like that'd be too hard to do. But I'm not a multi-billion dollar online retailer (that's probably for the better).

Source: Bloomberg

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/abhiroop-basu Abhiroop Basu

    I'm not completely familiar with US trademark law, but the USPTO website indicates that the "App Store" trade mark was been accepted for publication in June 2010. It does not appear as though the trademark has been registered, albeit being accepted on a prima facie basis.

    Can Apple bring a case against Amazon for infringement even before the trademark is actually registered?

    • David Ruddock

      Abhiroop,

      I believe its status is currently in limbo because of the fact that Microsoft filed an opposition to trademark within 30 days of the trademark receiving published status (published for opposition), and that until the opposition is resolved it will remain incompletely registered.

      But it seems there is nothing stopping Apple from litigating infringing parties in the meantime. Seems fair enough to me.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/abhiroop-basu Abhiroop Basu

        If Microsoft is able to successfully oppose the registration of the “App Store” trademark, then Apple’s claims of infringement against Amazon would be ineffectual. Indeed their only potential ground would be that Amazon infringed their well-known (unregistered) trademark.

        So, how can Apple already oppose Amazon’s use of the words “Appstore” when Apple doesn’t even have the rights to that trademark?

        • David Ruddock

          Their suit isn't over "Appstore" specifically - I believe Apple is claiming that "App Store" is so similar to "Appstore" that the likelihood of confusion is sufficient to warrant infringement.

          Apple's patent on "App Store" is published but opposed, I don't think there's anything stopping them from going after infringers simply because one third party opposes it.

          If that were the case, a single third party could stop an entity from litigating various, unrelated infringers based on an unrelated opposition to its filing.

  • the android cow

    As if apple doesn't have enough money already, guess Steve jobs needs a new turtle neck lol. Apple might have started this whole smartphone boom, but now android is taking over

  • http://veryexistence.wordpress.com kevin

    We'll soon have the same patent problems anytime soon when Apple decides to patent a new name for'shit'. It's going to be so much of a killer that everyone wants to use the new name.

    Anyway, nice patenting of everything, Apple! xD

  • http://3dgames.co 3ddi3

    In theory you could not trademark a generic word. But then again ins't "Apple" is a generic word.

    The word "App" is also generic for the word "applications". But then Apple could argue that is also a shortened form for "Apple".

    if I were Amazon I would go for something like: Mobile --- store.

  • ari-free

    I had a feeling that Amazon was looking for trouble with this name.

  • http://xda Henning-DK

    But... The name of their store is "Amazon Appstore", where Apple's is called "Apple App Store".
    How is that the same?
    They clearly state that it is the Appstore of Amazon. NOT the App Store of Apple.

  • chris

    This is crazy. This won't even effect Apple customers as they don't have access to anything other than THE App Store.

    Honestly, it's a damn word. The idea that you could protect it in the first place is idiotic.

    Just once, could Apple try and be as cool as they, and all the iSheep, think they are? Cool doesn't sue...cool sits back and watches the world explode.

    • Franky

      +1
      I could sit in my turtleneck and watch stuff explode all day.....

  • andriod hd

    If they lose the name the can just call it "App Zone" or zon without the "e"

  • http://twitter.com/Telanis_ Telanis

    Use the amazon store outside the US: http://android.stackexchange.com/q/7254/1465

  • Nick

    Apple need to shut up and go back to making stuff for their sheeple.

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