What's In A Name? Apple Launches Lawsuit Against Amazon

Remember when Paris Hilton tried to trademark "That's Hot"? Well, flash forward to 2011 and Apple is exhibiting similar behaviour, suing Amazon in an attempt to stop the retailer from using the term "Appstore".

Remember when Paris Hilton tried to trademark “That’s Hot”? Well, flash forward to 2011 and Apple is exhibiting similar behaviour, suing Amazon in an attempt to stop the retailer from using the term “Appstore”.

In truth, Apple’s lawsuit is far more legitimate than Paris Hilton’s attempted trademark, but the concept is the same. On Tuesday March 15, 2011, Amazon launched a new online purchasing centre called “Appstore”. The “Appstore” is for Android applications and distributes software for smartphones and Androids, including both purchasable and free apps. All and all, it doesn’t seem like a particularly noteworthy story; however, Apple feels differently.

This is because Apple has been using the term “Apple App Store” since July 2008, and Apple isn’t impressed with Amazon’s move (note how Amazon has gotten rid of the space between “app” and “store”, differentiating it – ever so slightly – from Apple’s “App Store”). According to documents filed on March 18, 2011 in a California federal court, Apple has contacted Amazon three times over the use of the term “App Store”; however, Apple has not received what it considers a “substantive response”. The lawsuit seeks damages from Amazon, but more importantly, Apple is looking to prevent Amazon from using the term.

While Apple claims it has won approval to trademark “App Store” in the United States; in fact, the filing is being appealed by Microsoft. For the moment, non-Apple companies who distribute applications have been forced to use other terms to describe their virtual stores; Microsoft currently uses the term “Windows Marketplace for Mobile”, Google uses ” Android Market”, and Blackberry uses “App World”.

Ultimately, what’s interesting about the “app store” case is not the legal battle itself; that will be sorted out by high powered lawyers in a court room. However, intellectual property and social media is an important and interesting issue. Can the history of the term “app” be traced and attributed? How common is the term? Is “App” the new Kleenex- a brand which has become synonymous with an item? For all the users – who have no stake hold in the term – does anyone really care?