Apple digs in to protect ‘app store’ name

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At a time when Amazon poses a growing threat to its dominant iTunes service, Apple is doubling down on efforts to drive its rival away from the term “appstore.”

In court filings last week, Apple demanded that Amazon provide an executive to testify why the company decided to remove the words “for Android” from some of Amazon’s app store marketing. The filing also repeats allegations that Amazon’s use of “Amazon Appstore” with the Kindle Fire tablet was intended to confuse consumers. (Here are some highlights for legal eagle types:)

evidence suggesting that the name of Amazon’s Service is actually “Amazon Appstore,” or at least that Amazon has consciously chosen to cease or minimize the use of “for Android” with its mark, is highly relevant to Apple’s offensive case  […]  Amazon has steadfastly refused to produce documents and information regarding the use of “for Android” in connection with its service […] Amazon has failed to produce a witness who can testify regarding the decision not to use “for Android” with the Amazon  Appstore Service outside the context of the Kindle Fire, despite clear evidence that Amazon frequently does not use “for Android” in conjunction with its Service

Apple first filed the lawsuit in March of 2011 after its rival opened “Amazon Appstore for Android” and the two companies have since been locked in procedural squabbles. Amazon argues that the term “app store” is generic. Apple, on the other hand, says the removal of the “for Android” phrase is evidence the term is not generic and is now accusing Amazon of dragging its feet in producing evidence.

Apple, meanwhile, is still trying to obtain an official trademark for “app store,” a process that has been tied up even since Microsoft asked the US Trademark Office to refuse the application. A similar fight is playing out in Europe.

Apple’s attempts to restrict Amazon’s use of “app store” is occurring as the companies appear on a collision course for the same customers. Reports this week suggest that Apple executives regard Amazon’s store as a bigger threat than Google’s store even though it is now much smaller. Apple’s fears may lie in the fact that Amazon’s store has iTunes-like quality control and because Amazon is selling a growing array of tablet devices and is planning to offer a smartphone. A report by Flurry also found that Amazon’s store generated 89 percent of revenue per active user compared to the best performer, Apple’s App Store, putting it well ahead of Google Play.

Despite all the legal action, Apple may be grasping at straws as its legal case for “app store” appears weak. Amazon and other opponents have pointed out that “app” was a word of the year in 2010 and that Steve Jobs reportedly used “app store” in a generic way — much as a person would say “shoe store.”

(Image by Edward Westmacott via Shutterstock)

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