Microsoft Files Complaint Over Apple's Trademarked App Store
It may sound like one of the most frivolous law motions to turn up in a long time, but millions of dollars are at stake. Microsoft Corp. has filed a complaint against Apple with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, claiming Apple should have no exclusive trademark rights to the name "App Store."
While it may seem there are more important things to fight over, trademarks have always been important to corporate identity, and the most important things a company knows is that the first one to the patent and trademark office door with a specific name (in this case, App Store) gets the trademark. So what's Microsoft basing its complaint on? They claim "App Store" is too generic of a name and is in everyday use, thus can't qualify as a trademark.
"App is a common generic name for the goods offered at Apple's store, as shown in dictionary definitions and by widespread use by Apple and others," Microsoft states. The company goes on to state that not only is "app" a common phrase, but "store" is "generic for retail store services for which Apple seeks registration… These facts alone establish genericness as a matter of law under the cases holding that a generic product name followed by 'store' is generic for retail store services featuring the product."
Talk about splitting hairs here. One wonders what Microsoft would say about "Whole Foods." Two generic words. Does the grocery chain deserve its trademark stripped away too?
But Microsoft does have one point. In language, trademarked names often do fall into common usage and there are many companies that have lost their trademarks for that reason. Aspirin was once a trademark (and in some countries still is), and Bayer had to give it up when everyone called the white powder by its trademarked, rather than scientific name (acetylsalicylic acid). Coke has barely held out from becoming generic for soft drink. It's only been because of the massive TV ad campaigns by the Coca-Cola company to continually reaffirm its brand-name image that coke (with a lower-case c) hasn't already become just another word for soda, pop, soft drink, or whatever people call fizzy beverages. App (short for application) has become a generic name, but Apple has advertised its App Store strenuously, and thus, is doing what it can to hang onto its trademark.Continued on the next page