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Summary:

Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) has been working really hard at breaking into the smartphone apps race that’s dominated by Google’s Android and Apple…

Apple

Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) has been working really hard at breaking into the smartphone apps race that’s dominated by Google’s Android and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), so this latest step should perhaps come as no surprise. Microsoft has filed a motion with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for Apple to be refused exclusive rights to use the name “App Store,” arguing that this is a generic term that Apple “should not be permitted to usurp for its exclusive use.”

In the motion (obtained and posted by the Seattle tech news site Tech Flash), Microsoft’s lawyers argue that

“the combined term ‘app store’ is commonly used in the trade, by the general press, by consumers, by Apple’s competitors and even by Apple’s founder and CEO Steve Jobs, as the generic name for online stores featuring apps.…In a recent interview, Jobs criticized the proliferation of app stores for Google’s competing Android platform as follows: In addition to Google’s own app Marketplace, Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), Verizon and Vodafone (NYSE: VOD) 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.”

Apple has hit back against Microsoft’s attacks, arguing that “”the vastly predominant usage of the expression ‘app store’ in trade press is as a reference to Apple’s extraordinarily well-known APP STORE mark and the services rendered by Apple thereunder.”

Does Microsoft have a case here? While the term certainly has become widely used, one can’t forget that Apple’s App Store also is a play on Apple too, just as Mac is a short term for Macintosh.

But you can’t fault Microsoft for trying anything it can to get an edge over Apple. If one of the allures of smartphones has, so far, been access to app stores, then Apple has stolen a march against its competitors: it has over 300,000 apps in its App Store catalogue, while its next-closest competitor Android has 130,000 in its Market. Microsoft, meanwhile, is relatively languishing at 4,000 in its Marketplace, and that’s including a sizeable number of apps ported over from the predecessor to Windows Phone 7, its most current mobile OS.

That’s a lead that Apple has been banking on and using on other platforms, too, such as the iPad, and — as of last week — the Mac App Store.

By Ingrid Lunden

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  1. For Microsoft to claim that App Store is generic and should not be copyrighted is hypocritical. The term “App Store” is no more generic than the term “Windows”. Does this mean that any should be allowed to use term “Windows” in their software package as long as the software uses windows in some way? Actually, the word “app” was not even widely used until the introduction of Apple’s iPhone applications. No one had ever used such term before even though Palm and Windows Mobile software were available on the web prior to Apple’s iPhone. So clearly the term “App Store” was not generic; it was the phenomenal popularity and success of Apple’s iPhone that made such term generic today whereas the word “Windows” had been widely used by people both in terms of physical windows and in the software area prior to Microsoft’s introduction of “Windows”. This whole thing is ridiculous

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  2. Applications have always been called “Apps”.

    Never heard of App Store, until Apple did it, but there are plenty of word combo’s that can work. App Market, App Place, App Cart, etc.

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  3. Hey, have you tried this new app? I bet that app is awesome. Its not talking about an Apple or a Window or even a Chromium, and lets not go there on how trademarking a common edible item (apple) somehow is anymore exclusive a term than a common scenic viewing device (window) I think trademarks are well and good, when original named. I don’t think we should in the future, allow any company to trademark a word that already is commonplace, as we’ve seen first hand how well that works.

    Honestly, I think we need to take a bite of Apple, replace some Windows, and Free Ourselves Smarter and Sooner than waiting around for someone else to do the job for US After all, a price to be paid.

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  4. @makelvin “For Microsoft to claim that App Store is generic and should not be copyrighted is hypocritical. The term ‘App Store’ is no more generic than the term ‘Windows’. Does this mean that any should be allowed to use term ‘Windows’ in their software package as long as the software uses windows in some way?”

    This argument only holds if Microsoft were in the glass business and selling windows–i.e. the generic actual term for portals covered with glass on the sides of houses and buildings. Software trademarked as “Windows” is by no means the same as a product that actually is the dictionary definition of a window. The former only affects the scope of other software (i.e. not the normal use of the word); the latter infringes upon the entire industry of glass-makers who want to sell windows, and would create a trademark on the actual current language usage, which is not what trademarks are about.

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