Amazon's 'Appstore' Marketing Doesn't Imitate Apple, Judge Rules
Chill out, Apple. Yours is not the only app store. That's the preliminary message an Oakland judge sent to the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer giant by tossing out a claim -- one of several in a lawsuit -- that online retail king Amazon is deceiving the public by using the term.
It's the latest development in Apple vs. The World, as the company tries to litigate away the competition with a range of lawsuits.
Apple has been trying to keep the name App Store exclusive since July 17, 2008, when it filed an application to register "App Store" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Among those objecting were Microsoft, which argued that the term is too generic.
Then Amazon in September 2010 started soliciting developers for its "Appstore Developer Program." The company now calls its marketplace "Amazon Appstore for Android."
Apple, noting that Amazon offered Android versions of many of the same app titles available for download for its iOS devices, asked the company to stop using that name, and after no substantial response, sued, according to court papers.
Apple accused Amazon of deception, namely false designation of origin and false description as well as dilution and unfair competition. The U.S. District Court in Northern California denied Apple's request for a preliminary injunction against Amazon's use of the term in July 2011.
The latest ruling applies only to the claim of false description, but could signal that Apple will have difficulty arguing that a store that sells apps can't legally be called an app store.
The judge in the case, Phyllis Hamilton, granted Amazon's motion to toss this particular claim, saying Wednesday in an order that she found "no support for the proposition that Amazon has expressly or impliedly communicated that its Appstore for Android possesses the characteristics and qualities that the public has come to expect from the Apple APP Store and/or Apple products," according to Bloomberg News.
Apple's highest profile legal battle is with Samsung Electronics over patents for smartphones and tablets. It has also locked horns recently with HTC, eMachines, PsyStar computers and filed countersuits against Motorola, Nokia and others.
The highest profile lawsuit was against giant Microsoft and computer maker Hewlett-Packard, claiming they ripped off aspects of Apple's graphic user interface. That case stretched from 1988 to 1997.
Apples to Apples
Apple has even sued New York City (known as the Big Apple) and the Victoria School of Business in Canada for using logos too similar to the distinctive, fruity emblem that adorns its products.
When it comes to the App Store, it's easy to see why the company is territorial: With more than a million offerings, it's a key driver of the iOS platform, popularized by the commercial phrase "There's an app for that."
"Apple's mammoth and high quality App Store is certainly a key differentiator to sell to and lock-in the existing as well as prospective iOS users," said Neil Shah, a wireless-tech expert at Strategy Analytics.
"Apple revolutionized the native touch-friendly applications ecosystem by branding and popularizing its ecosystem as 'App Store.' Apple's contention over its coined App Store term is thus fairly emotional and basically a fight to protect the attached mind share."