What’s in a name? Plenty, say Apple and Microsoft


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You might think it is tough to have a lengthy argument about the meaning of two words. But in the case of Apple and Microsoft, you’d be wrong.

Apple has now fired back in a legal row with Microsoft over whether or not the term “App store” should be protected as intellectual property.

The dispute dates back to 2008 when Apple originally requested a trademark on the term at the launch of the iTunes App Store for iPhone applications. The request covered any form of software sales with delivery over the Internet rather than in physical media.

The trademark application process being a slow-moving beast, there was still opportunity to file objections this January, an opportunity Microsoft took full advantage of. It argued that “undisputed facts” showed that the word “app” (as a contraction of software application) has been in use for 25 years or more, that the word “store” (as, erm, a retail facility) is well established, and that thus it wasn’t possible to trademark the two words together.

Microsoft also argued that app store was widely used to refer to similar services from other providers, and even cited Steve Jobs referring to the Android “app stores” during a conference call.

Apple’s response is to argue that it’s nonsense to look at the individual words: to assess a phrase for trademark purposes you have to take the entire phrase together. Or as the filing states in one section heading, ” Microsoft’s ‘Noun Plus Store’ Test Grossly Oversimplifies the Genericness Test.”

It then trots out a linguistics expert who notes that humans interpret phrases as a whole rather than looking at each word individually, before citing examples of granted trademarks such as “Vision Center” and “Park ‘n’ Fly” that are made up of widely used individual words.

The company also rubbishes the press clippings Microsoft put forward and suggests they are “simply a small, inconsequential subset of how the relevant public uses the term.” It notes that in a database of both written and spoken English use in the US, 88% of the time people mentioned “APP STORE”, they were referring to Apple’s service.

Apple also argues that a study carried out for the Microsoft filing, which put that figure at just 20%, was flawed because it intentionally searched only for use of the term “app store” in lower case, thus excluding many official references to Apple’s service.





12 Responses to What’s in a name? Plenty, say Apple and Microsoft

  1. Um, Apple, remember the whole GUI case you lost back in the 90’s? Yeah, that one. Save your money for the real battles.

  2. Um, Apple, remember the whole GUI case you lost back in the 90's? Yeah, that one. Save your money for the real battles.

  3. it's a retarded argument. I mean I might understand if this was a new thing they were coming out with, but this has been out for at 7+ years. It's kinda like the Frisbee – the name is trademarked & copywritten, but it's so damn common any flying disc is refered to as a Frisbee (aside from disc golf discs, of course).

    It just sounds like a new way for apple to be a buncha douches yet again – great product: just ran by a bucha douches

  4. But it's OK for Microsoft to trademark the words "Windows," "Word," and "Office," which have been in widespread use forever? Gimme a break — what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

      • Maybe so, but I suspect MS would flex their muscles if some company dared use any of those words in the name of a product. I could be wrong, but I know that companies zealously guard what they consider to be their property.

        • Open *Office*?

          Sure, they sued Lindows, but that was before the trademark office had rejected their claim on "Windows". Office and Word have always been fair game, and as dk1123 stated the trademarks are specifically on the Microsoft branded names. Good example: They would not attack anyone that said "made for Windows" but DO go after anyone that says "made for Microsoft Windows" or "made for Windows XP" (their other standard trademarks) without prior authority.

        • They haven't sued AbiWord yet or OpenOffice or LibreOffice. As long as you don't try to market an office suite that looks like Microsoft Office 2010 and call it Office 2010, I'm sure you'd be fine.

          You could call it Bob's Office 2010 and likely be fine.

  5. Why does Apple get credit for inventing the web based software distribution system? Lindows came with the Click-n-Run warehouse, which installed applications over the internet with a simple click. Yes, it's not called "App Store" but it's the same concept. Once again, Apple gets credit for inventing something it didn't. Like the GUI, etc.

    • I fully agree with you, its ok to steal free and open ideas from linux. But saying that they invented it and taking full credit of that is just rude. :|
      In popculture it's just unlucky linux users. In science world thats disgraceful and that means you're no longer scientist with a degree.

    • I fully agree with you, its ok to steal free and open ideas from linux. But saying that they invented it and taking full credit of that is just rude. :|
      In popculture it's just unlucky linux users. In science world thats disgraceful and that means you're no longer scientist with a degree.