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 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.