Ivy Tsui is a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.
In 2008, Apple filed a trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the name “App Store” (serial number 77525433). Microsoft objected to this and filed a motion challenging this application on January 10th, 2011. The current status for Apple’s trademark request is shown on the USPTO website as: “An opposition is now pending at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.” In the UK, “App Store” has been registered as a trademark since June 2009.
Apple’s trademark application for goods and services includes “retail store services featuring computer software provided via the internet and other computer and electronic communication networks” and other related offerings. The App Store is available on electronic devices including the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, and is now offering more than 300,000 apps. Microsoft’s application retail store, known as Marketplace, is languishing at 6,000 apps.
In the motion, Microsoft argues that the term “app” is a generic name for software applications, while “store” is generic for retail store services. Furthermore, Microsoft states that “app store” is widely used as the name for online stores featuring apps, thus granting this trademark would mean that other companies are prevented from referring to their application retail stores as “app stores”. Just as “the Computer Store” is generic for stores selling computers, “App Store” is generic for stores selling apps.
Considering that Google, Blackberry, and even the US Government are describing their software applications as apps, it seems clear that “app” has now become a generic term. At the time of this writing, the majority of voters at the WSJ Digits online poll also appear to agree with Microsoft’s position. You can view the results here.