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Apple’s Battle for the App Store

Apple has taken legal action against online retail giant Amazon in a bid to stop Amazon from using the name “Appstore”.  Apple claims that Amazon’s use of the name constitutes trade mark infringement and unfair competition.  Apple further claims that the name is deliberately similar to its own App Store and is likely to confuse and mislead consumers. 

Apple is currently involved in a number of proceedings in the USA in relation to its right to use the term “App Store” to describe the online location where it offers consumers downloadable applications for its iPods and iPads.

According to Apple, Amazon has ignored repeated requests to cease use of the name.  Apple now seeks an order preventing such use along with unspecified damages. 

Thus far, companies offering similar online services have avoided confrontation with Apple by using variations on the App Store theme; HP offer the “App Catalogue”; RIM use the “Blackberry App World” while Google’s applications are sold in its “Android Market”.

However, Apple’s application to register as a trade mark the term “App Store” is still pending before the US Patent and Trademark Office following an opposition by Microsoft.  Microsoft has sought to block Apple’s attempt to protect the term which it argues is too generic.  Microsoft contest that “app store” is a term used by consumers and companies alike to describe a store where apps are sold, similar to a shoe store for example.  Given the terms generic nature, Microsoft argues that Apple’s competitors should be allowed to use the term without fear of litigation. 

This is not the first time that Apple has been involved in a trade mark dispute in relation to its iPhone and iPad technology.  Following the initial launch of the iPhone in 2007 it emerged that the trade mark was actually owned by technology company Cisco.  The two companies reached a settlement and now share rights over the name. 

Apple is just one in a number of major players in a complex web of litigation involving numerous phone makers and software firms in relation to the ownership of the patents used in smartphones.  This includes claims and counterclaims against technology rivals Nokia, HTC and Motorola. In fact, as recently as this week, Apple has taken an action against Samsung Electronics claiming that Samsung’s Galaxy range of mobile phones and tablet computers “slavishly” copies the design of Apple’s iPhones and iPads.

Contributed by Leo Moore.