14 July, 2013

App Store Struggles End

Yet another chapter in the Apple litigation era came to an end roughly a week ago. The fight over the trademarked phrase "App Store" has raged between Apple and Amazon since early 2011,  having had its ups and downs during the two years. The matter ended once Apple approached Amazon with an agreement to end all current and possible future disputes over the term, effectively allowing both parties to use the phrase as they please. The case, set to have a hearing in August of this year, was subsequently dismissed by Judge Hamilton in the Oakland District Court.

A cavalcade of time-wasting apptastic action
For a bit further exposition in where the situation stood prior to this settlement, Apple own the trademark for the name "App Store", having applied for it in 2008. The name was contended as being too generic, covered under 15 USC § 1064, where the registration of a trademark can be cancelled should it stop from distinguishing the goods of the original registrar from others which are similar. Arguably with other companies such as Amazon and Microsoft using similar names in similar services offering applications for their respective operating systems, the term has indeed become generic and purely descriptive of a digital store-front for applications. As in their statement to Reuters, Apple will now have to distinguish its services from the rest of the pack purely on merit, not by the protection of a specific name to those services.

Only a few months ago in Australia the same trademark was rejected by the Australian Trade Marks Office due to it being merely descriptive and didn't distinguish Apple's services from their competitors. The application was rejected under the Trade Marks Act 1995. Instead of the name being considered generic, as was contended in the US, the mark was seen to only descriptive a store where applications were sold, and only functioned in conjunction with other well-known marks such as "iPod" or "iPhone"; the name itself didn't sufficiently stand on its own to distinguish Apple's store from others.

What this does is close the contention over the mark so dearly held on by Apple. From a legal stand-point Apple's decision to end the legal process was a sensible one, with a very high probability their mark would have been invalidated by the courts. Prolonging the process would have cost both parties more and yielded little or no reward in the long run. After all, a simple name change would probably have not pushed customers away from Amazon's services to use Apple's instead.

Source: Reuters

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