Apple trying to sue Amazon over the term “App Store”


This one’s a slightly different kind of language post, but still interesting I feel. Tech company Apple has been heavily involved in plenty of litigation over the past few years, most recently over claims that other phone manufacturers (namely Samsung) have modeled – or straight up copied – their devices’ designs. Whichever side you take in that particular debate, it’s clear that Apple’s penchant for trying to sue everybody is starting to grate. Thankfully, judges are also getting annoyed by it.

Apple lawyers have been arguing that “App Store” is a trademarked phrase, and it has the right to stop others from using similar phrases. That includes Amazon, which was sued by Apple in March 2011, shortly after it opened the Amazon Appstore for Android.

Now, some of those issues are finally coming to a head in public. At a hearing today in an Oakland federal court, it became clear that while Apple may have a lot of fury and passion behind this lawsuit, it has run into trouble in the form of a very skeptical judge. US District Judge Phyllis Hamilton showed great doubt that Apple will be able to prove that consumers were confused or deceived by Amazon’s use of the word “Appstore.” At this point, it’s somewhat remarkable that the company hasn’t dropped this suit, since Hamilton indicated a year ago that she was unimpressed by Apple’s arguments and denied a preliminary injunction.

Arguing over the intellectual property ownership of elements of your phones and tablets is one thing, but trying to trademark a generic term like “App Store” reeks of arrogance in my opinion, and I for one am glad that judge Phyllis Hamilton seems to agree. The arrogance is only reinforced when Apple claim that it’s not so much about the words themselves, but the fact that Apple ‘set the benchmark’ and they feel that customers would be cheated by an inferior product with a similar name.

“They [Amazon employees] admit they targeted Apple customers, because Apple set the benchmark for what consumers expected,” said Eberhart. “When you combine that with our evidence consumers associate the term ‘app store’ with Apple,” it’s enough evidence to warrant a trial.

“Everyone who uses a smartphone knows the difference between the Apple iOS system and the Android system,” responded Hamilton. “Where’s the confusion? There’s some suggestion [by Apple] that if Amazon is using the ‘Appstore’ term someone might think they have as many apps as Apple does. Well, why? And how, in fact, does that contribute to any deception on the part of Amazon?”

It’s reminiscent of cellular carrier T-Mobile trademarking the color magenta – why should one company possibly be allowed to “own” a color, or in this case, a generic, descriptive set of words?

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