Writing about mobile for a living, it can be hard to keep the names of all of the competing App Stores straight. Apple has the App Store, Google has the Android Marketplace, HP has the Palm App Catalog and Microsoft has the most unwieldy name yet in the Windows Phone Marketplace.
Microsoft seems to be as embarrassed by their app market’s name as we are, because they’re now trying to take Apple to court over Cupertino’s 2008 trademark on the the “App Store,” arguing that the term is too generic to be exclusively used by Apple.
I think they may well have a point. When the iPhone first came out, the term “app” actually wasn’t used very often compared to “software,” “program” or “application.” In three years, though, it’s become the default way to describe software. App Store, then, is as generic a term as “clothes store.”
As Microsoft’s court filing shows, even Steve Jobs refers to his competitors as running “app stores”… not “App Store competitors.”
“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,” the filing quotes Apple CEO Steve Jobs as saying. “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.”
I think I’m with Microsoft on this one. The trademark filing may not have been overbroad at the time, but it is now, and Apple doesn’t seem to really be protecting it. Things aren’t likely to become confused by people using the terms “Android App Store” or “Windows Phone App Store”… if anything, since people are already using “app store” for everything, loosening the trademark will probably make things less confusing. Even Apple is using this naming convention with the new Mac App Store. Maybe this is a lawsuit it wouldn’t be the end of the world for Apple to lose.