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Amazon refudiates Apple 'app store' trademark suit

Quotes Steve Jobs in defense

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Amazon is fighting back against an Apple lawsuit that charged the mega-etailer with using the term "App Store" without proper Cupertinian consent.

In a response to Apple's lawsuit, which was filed on March 18 in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, Amazon says it needs no license or other authorization from Apple to use the term because "app store" is a generic term.

According to Amazon, Apple itself has genericized the term. "In press releases, Apple has claimed that its app store is 'the largest application store in the world'," the filing notes. "In October 2010, Apple's CEO Steve Jobs called Apple's app store 'the easiest-to-use, largest app store in the world, preloaded on every iPhone'."

Perhaps Jobs should have cleared that statement with his legal team before shipping ammunition to the enemy.

Among its arguments for the generic nature of the term "app store", Amazon cites "The American Dialect Society, a leading group of U.S. linguists, [which] recently voted 'app' as the 'Word of the Year' for 2010, noting that although the word 'has been around for ages,' it 'really exploded in the last 12 months' with the 'arrival of "app stores" for a wide spectrum of operating systems for phones and computers'."

If you can't trust the American Dialect Society, who can you trust?

If this tempest in a trademark teapot sounds familiar, that may be because it covers the same ground as a separate-but-equal legal tussle between Apple and Microsoft.

After Apple filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office for protection of the term "app store" – or, as Apple's filing orthographically insists, "APP STORE" – Microsoft lodged an Opposition filing to the USPTO, which made much the same argument that Amazon has provided: that the term 'app store' is generic.

"'App' is a common generic name for the goods offered at Apple's store," and "'Store' is generic for the 'retail store services' for which Apple seeks registration," Microsoft argued in its brief seeking to put trademarking 'app store' beyond the pale.

Apple's legal team sought to defeat Microsoft's arguments – unfortunately in a font size that Microsoft said was too small to satisfy court-submission guidelines. Microsoft then offered the USPTO a more-comprehensive disputation of Apple's claims.

And round and round we go, with the next step likely being Apple arguing against Amazon's arguments against Apple's arguments.

Bootnote

When the American Dialect Society honored "app" as 2010's Word of the Year ("tweet" was 2009's winner), it also hailed other neologisms, both welcome and less so. A sampling:

  • Most Useful: nom – Onomatopoetic form connoting eating, esp. pleasurably
  • Most Unnecessary: refudiate – Blend of refute and repudiate used by Sarah Palin on Twitter
  • Most Outrageous: gate rape – Pejorative term for invasive new airport pat-down procedure
  • Most Euphemistic: kinetic event – Pentagon term for violent attacks on troops in Afghanistan
  • Least Likely to Succeed: culturomics – Research project from Google analyzing the history of language and culture

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