When is an app store not an App Store?

14 Jan 2011

One of the editorial dilemmas of the success of Apple’s App Store is what to call all the other app stores.

Not specifically, of course. Google has Android Marketplace, RIM has BlackBerry App World, Nokia has Ovi Store, etc. But all of these and others are essentially the same thing: they’re app stores. Only we can’t call them that because Apple’s app store really is called the App Store, and Apple has asserted that it’s a proprietary term that can’t be used to generically describe anyone else’s app store.

Apple lists “App Store” with a service mark symbol (which does carry some legal weight) and has filed an application with the US Patent and Trademark Office to officially trademark the term.

Well, Microsoft – which calls its app store Windows Marketplace for Mobile – has had enough of that, and has asked the USPTO to deny Apple's request.

Why they’re doing it now when Apple filed its request in December 2009, only Steve Ballmer’s lawyers know for sure. But Microsoft is arguing that the term “app store” has already become a generic term.

"Like 'shoe store' or 'toy store', it is a generic term that is commonly used by companies, governments and individuals that offer apps," Microsoft's associate general counsel Russell Pangborn told the BBC.

It will be interesting to see if Microsoft pulls this one off – because personally I’m tired of having to use clunky terms like “application storefronts” or “application retail sites”. Feh.

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