When you hear the term, “App Store” do you think of Apple’s iTunes section for apps? If Amazon said you could download apps from an app store on the Kindle Fire would you assume they meant Apple’s iOS app store and then buy a Kindle Fire under the belief that you could have access to 700,00 apps? That is what Apple thinks people believe and they want to ensure that no one gets confused.
The battle over the term “App Store” has been going on for more than a year and a half. In March of 2011, Apple filed a trademark lawsuit against Amazon over it. Apple claims to have exclusive rights to the term. Amazon maintains that “app store” is too generic to be trademarked. At the time, U.S. DIstrict Judge Phyllis Hamilton said that Apple wasn’t able to produce enough evidence that the term created confusion for consumers.
On Wednesday, Oakland Federal Court heard the case again with new evidence and Judge Hamilton still seemed skeptical of Apple’s claim. “Everyone who uses a smartphone knows the difference between the Apple iOS system and the Android system,” said Hamilton. “Where is the confusion? There is some suggestion [by Apple] that if Amazon is using the ‘Appstore’ term, someone might think they have as many apps as Apple Does. Well, why? And how, in fact, does that contribute to any deception on the part of Amazon?”
Apple’s pre-hearing survey showed that, when presented with the term “app store” consumers associated it with Apple products. However, Hamilton still wasn’t convinced that this proved the iPad maker’s claim. “I don’t believe any consumers were directly asked whether they were deceived,” said Hamilton.
Apple owns the trademark for the term “App Store” and “Appstore” in Europe, but the company’s application is still pending in the U.S. Many tech companies have objected to Apple’s attempt to claim ownership of the term. In addition to Amazon, Microsoft, HTC, Sony and Nokia have all made their case that “app store” is too generic to be trademarked. It has been noted that “app” was the “Word of the Year” in 2010 and Apple’s former CEO Steve Jobs used “app store” generically when referring to the company’s competitors.