Apple and Microsoft argue over the small print

Recently we told you how Apple and Microsoft are engaged in a battle over the intricacy of how words are interpreted. Now the two are disputing the way to put those words on paper.

As we noted, Microsoft is objecting to Apple’s attempts to trademark the term “App Store”, which has led to an argument over grammar: Microsoft maintains both words in the phrase are too generic to trademark, while Apple insists the entire phrase must be considered as a single expression and is thus original enough to be protected.

Another argument in the case involves measuring how the expression has been used: Apple claims 88% of use refers to its system, while Microsoft puts the figure at 20%. The difference appears to be both the source material searched and the specific capitalization (or lack of it) of the term.

Now Microsoft has come up with an even more creative legal argument. It says Apple’s most recent filing (which argued against Microsoft’s demand that the trademark application be instantly dismissed) breached court rules on two points: the filing exceeded 25 pages (it totaled 31), and it was written in text smaller than 11 points. Microsoft says Apple should be given 15 days to rewrite the document.

From a personal perspective, as a former spokesman for the Plain English Campaign, I’m all for concisely written legal documents written in a legible font. That said, I’m not 100% convinced Microsoft is motivated entirely by the interests of clear communication in this case.

Meanwhile PCMag.com noted a related interesting example of the vagaries of the trademark system: Apple has already been granted a trademark on the expression “There’s an app for that.” Logically it doesn’t make sense to approve that before approving the trademark for “App Store”, but it’s likely because the marketing expression is much more clearly Apple’s own work and detailed enough to be protectable.





4 Responses to Apple and Microsoft argue over the small print

  1. Hell, If Apple could, they would patent the way iBreath and the way iWalk and every damn word on the dictionary or every human activity. Sorry Apple, but I THINK DIFFERENT: Microsoft is right on this one, the expression it’s too generic to grant Apple exclusive right over it, as a whole or word by word.

    Let them battle, the final user is the one paying for the legal consequences of their feud.

  2. Hell, If Apple could, they would patent the way iBreath and the way iWalk and every damn word on the dictionary or every human activity. Sorry Apple, but I THINK DIFFERENT: Microsoft is right on this one, the expression it's too generic to grant Apple exclusive right over it, as a whole or word by word.

    Let them battle, the final user is the one paying for the legal consequences of their feud.

  3. App is short for application. A store is a store.

    We in the geek community have been using this god damn words for years upon years now! Theres no way they should be allowed to copywrite to basic english words.

    "theres an app for that" as a slogan is different- its like Nikes "just do it". But you cant copywrite "do it".

  4. While I do believe that the phrase "App Store" is generic enough that it shouldn't be patentable, I do see Apple's point here. The whole reason expressions are patented is to avoid consumer confusion and avoid detrimental effects to corporate images when an expression in mis-used by one company while consumer thoughts immediately jump to another company.

    Personally, when I hear "App Store" I think Apple. If Microsoft were to promote an App Store, customers might wonder if the same Apps are available in both places. Or worse, if Microsoft's App Store is less than par, it may cause consumers to think less of Apple's App Store, as the name would carry some negative connotation. It was borderline enough when Intel introduced their "AppUp Center" since the concept seemed to be clearly Apple's. However, at least with Intel, the name does not cause any confusion.