Microsoft says Apple's "App Store" trademark is generic

Microsoft says that the phrase "App Store" is too generic of a term to only be able to be used by Apple, and now is fighting for the right to be able to use the phrase for their own mobile application store. The software giant is asking the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to refuse Apple's registration request as "App Store" is a generic term, and even has been used generically by Apple.

Both words and the phrase have sent Microsoft off on Apple attempting to obtain exclusive rights to use it, and with good reasoning too. In Microsoft's motion (PDF), they explain why the phrase and individual words are simply too generic to be trademarked.

Microsoft moves for summary judgment refusing registration of APP STORE. The following undisputed facts establish that “app store” is generic for retail store services featuring apps:

  •  “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.
  • “Store” is generic for the “retail store services” for which Apple seeks registration, and indeed, Apple refers to its “App Store” as a store. 

Until this case is resolved, Microsoft says that Apple is forcing other mobile phone developers to use their own terms, such as Microsoft's own "marketplace," even though the media and Apple CEO Steve Jobs have used the term generically. The media will often use "app store" when referring to any mobile device's location to purchase and download applications, including those on iOS, Windows Phone 7, and Android. Steve Jobs also has been quoted in an interview talking about Android "app stores" in reference to the fragmentation of four separate app stores, listed on Microsoft's motion in page five.

Once an applied-for trademark is determined to be generic, registration of the mark has to be denied and that will end all registration attempts by anyone to own it. That would be an outcome certainly unfavorable to Apple, and likewise the company has their own reasoning as to why "App Store" should be theirs, for this simple fact noted by TechFlash, that the term "creates a clearly recognizable double entendre" in that "app" would "be immediately recognized as a variant of the applicant’s well-known APPLE STORE mark.”

Apple also notes that "any unauthorized use of the APP STORE mark by retailers is an attempt to trade on the goodwill associated with Applicant’s well-known APP STORE mark."

The current status of Apple's trademark request says "an opposition is now pending" so for now it will be a wait-and-see game to find out who will get their way.

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