Apple Drops Trademark Claim on App Store, Stores That Sell Apps Everywhere Now Safe

Apple abandons lawsuit against Amazon

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You say App Store, I say Appstore. Apple has decided to call the whole thing off, and has dropped its lawsuit against Amazon for infringing on its trademark for its digital software retail distribution service — see how much easier it is to just say app store? Apple’s lawyers have decided that they don’t need a court to tell them that combining “app” and “store” does not make a unique and distinguishable brand, and that it’s a lost cause to keep people from referring to a store that sells apps as an app store.

On Tuesday, a federal judge dismissed Apple’s trademark infringement lawsuit at Apple’s request before the trial could begin in August. Amazon will agree to not counter-sue to get the trademark invalidated, but both companies will be able to call their stores what they want. “This was a decision by Apple to unilaterally abandon the case, and leave Amazon free to use ‘appstore,'” Martin Glick, a lawyer for Amazon, told Reuters.

Amazon’s Appstore was the target of Apple’s lawsuit almost immediately after its launch in 2011. Originally selling apps for Android devices, it now also caters to Amazon’s own Kindle Fire tablet. Apple’s App Store has been around since 2008; that’s practically forever in Internet time, long enough to establish a brand in their opinion.

It’s not as ridiculous as it sounds for “App Store” to be trademarked; after all, The Container Store is a trademark, and good luck naming your restaurant after yourself if your last name is McDonald. But trademarks work on a “use ’em or lose ’em” policy; if you want to use a phrase as a trademark, you have to keep using it and defend it from generic use, and if most people aren’t referring to Apple when they talk about app stores, the trademark can be invalidated. Apple felt obligated to prevent consumer confusion between the two app stores, though any consumer searching for Apple’s App Store who finds Amazon’s is probably not going to be so confused that they throw away their iPad and buy a Kindle Fire instead of looking for a website that sells apps they can use.

It might look like Apple is seeing the futility of solving all their problems through lawsuits. But arguably, Apple has already won, in that the Apple App Store is successful and few competitors have elected to call their digital storefront an app store and risk a trademark suit while this litigation was going on. It will probably mean that companies will feel more free in describing their stores, e.g. “Visit BlackBerry World, our app store,” but they’d rather have names that they can trademark themselves anyway.

(Reuters via Ars Technica, image via Apple)

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