Trademark

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
app store, trademark

Companies:
apple, wip



Apple Threatens Wireless Industry Group For Daring To List Out Other App Stores

from the it's-generic,-get-used-to-it dept

As we've been discussing, Apple is on a quixotic battle to claim that "App Store" really stands for Apple Store, and that only it can use the obviously generic phrase. It's even sued Amazon over this, leading to Amazon's wonderful response in which it quoted Steve Jobs using the term "app store" to refer to other app stores.

And, now, just as Apple was pushing its new iOS strategy, it also sent the Wireless Industry Partnership a cease-and-desist, because it has an excellent App Store Catalog that provides a list of alternative app stores, as well as its App Store Reports, which provides some data and information about the various app stores to developers, who might find such info quite useful.

It's hard to see this as anything other than garden variety, obnoxious trademark bullying on the part of Apple. WIP isn't competing with Apple. There is absolutely no likelihood of confusion here. Apple's just being obnoxious.

WIP hasn't quite figured out how it's going to respond to the legal threat directly, but it did use the opportunity to point out how Apple seems to be attacking this resource for developers at a time when it claims that it's helping developers... and then lists out a bunch of other ways that Apple has become extremely anti-developer:

We provide the App Store Catalog and the App Store Report as resources for developers who want to succeed, to earn a living, and to have their work enjoyed by people around the world. It is a fact that the world of mobile app distribution is highly fragmented and that not every mobile phone user has an iOS device. This means there are a wide array of "application download services" out there that developers need to consider to widely distribute their apps, and the Catalog and Report have been very well received as a resource to help them do so. Despite Apple's attempts through trademark to create the impression that it's the only game in town, it's not. Developers need resources such as these, and they've been very warmly received. Perhaps that's part of the problem.

It's a bit ironic that just as Apple flashes that $2.5 billion payout figure -- one for which it should be applauded -- it's also taken several steps that many see as thwarting developers' success:

  • Obsoleting several third-party apps by building their functionality into iOS 5
  • Allegedly keeping apps out of the App Store if they compete too closely with Apple's own software
  • Shutting down pay-per-install marketing systems
  • Rejecting apps because they include a particular feature, then later adding that feature to the OS
  • Squeezing developers and publishers with its in-app payment policies

And now it hits out at our attempts to support developers by helping them navigate the maze of distribution channels available to them -- including all the alternate channels outside of Apple's own (trademarked) App Store. Apple's repeated actions to wield control over its own ecosystem creates the impression that the developers in it live at Apple's behest; its attempt to control the generic term "app store" suggests that it's trying to extend that control beyond its own ecosystem as well.

Apple can get away with pissing off developers for now, but, at some point, this is going to come back and bite them hard. And, seriously, does it really make that big of a difference if others use the term "App Store"? Honestly, going after WIP for this seems likely to do a lot more damage to Apple's relationship with developers than the idea that someone else might use the very generic and descriptive term "app store."

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2011 @ 2:49pm

    Re: Crazy Apple Trademark List

    Instruments
    Carbon
    Capitals
    Charcoal
    Jam Pack
    Numbers
    Sand

    Now those all seem rather ridiculous, but I would say most (if not all of those) are perfectly valid when used in the specific context that Apple has protected.

    App Store should never have been granted as it is simply descriptive of it's use. The above examples are all common words, but they are not used in a way that is directly descriptive of the way they are used. If you had no familiarity with Apple software I'd say you would have a hard time guessing what each of those described.

    With App Store you know exactly what it is, not because you recognize the trademark, but because you know what an app store is.

    That is the difference.

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