Apple's effort to trademark the name "App Store" has run in to opposition from Microsoft, which argues the phrase is too generic to register and would restrict competitors' ability to use of the term to describe their own services.
A week after Apple launched its App Store for iPhone apps in 2008, the company applied for a trademark for "app store," a retail store offering "services featuring computer software provided via the internet and other computer and electronic communication networks," as well as other services, according to its application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
However, Microsoft filed a motion yesterday opposing the application with the agency's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, saying "app store" is "generic for retail store services featuring apps and unregistrable for ancillary services such as searching for and downloading apps from such stores." Microsoft argued that "app" is a common term for mobile software applications, and that "store" is a common term for a "place where goods are sold." Together, Microsoft said, the words represent a generic term for a primary service, and as such is unregisterable because it would prevent competitors from using the term to describe their own products. The filing cited efforts to trademark "The Computer Store" and "Log Cabin Homes," applications the board rejected for their generic natures.
Microsoft's motion notes that the phrase has become common enough that Apple CEO Steve Jobs used the phrase during an interview last October to criticize the proliferation of similar efforts from competing companies:
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.
Microsoft's filing notes that several other companies have online enterprises offering apps for mobile devices but have opted for other monikers to avoid the possibility of legal reprisal by Apple, even though those stores are referred to as "app stores" by the media:
Microsoft opened its own apps store--the Windows Marketplace for Mobile--in October 2009, offering screenshots, ratings, and version details of available apps.
Apple representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.