Judge to Apple and Amazon: Get a room


The judge hearing one of the dumber tech intellectual property rights disputes of recent years (and that covers quite some ground) is trying to keep the case from reaching a trial. Elizabeth Laporte has told Amazon and Apple that they must make a serious attempt to settle the case of the “App Store” term.

Apple is suing Amazon over the use of the term for its downloadable Android applications, claiming it violates a lawsuit. Apple also claimed Amazon was guilty of false advertising by misleading customers by misleading customers into thinking it was offering Apple products and services. The false advertising part of the claim has already been dismissed.

The gist of the two sides’ arguments is as follows. Apple maintains that it has the rights to “app store” and that the fact that Google chose “Android Marketplace” and Microsoft the “Windows Phone Store” shows the tech world has already recognized this. Amazon counters that the terms are too generic. Apple counters that by saying that although the individual words are generic, using them in combination is a trademarkable term. And Amazon in turn counters that by pointing to cases when Apple executives have used the term generically to cover other company’s offerings.

The prospect of hearing the two sides argue this in court certainly sounds tedious (particularly when it turns to “App store” vs “appstore” and so on), so you can’t really blame Laporte for trying to avoid that event, which is currently scheduled for August. She’s ordered both companies to attend settlement talks in March and stressed that they must send executives who have full authority to reach a deal. Rather ominously she notes that ” No participant in the settlement conference will be permitted to leave the settlement conference before it is concluded.”

If the “app store” debate sounds familiar, that’s because Microsoft has also stuck its oar in. It’s not involved in any claims of breaching the trademark, but rather has done its best to get the trademark itself declared invalid. In the resulting exchanges of legal paperwork, Apple and Microsoft argued over everything from the meaning of words to the correct way to search for uses of the term in media reports, to exactly what size typeface a court filing must be written in.