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1/12/2011
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Microsoft Sues Apple Over 'App Store' Trademark

Redmond claims its rival's e-commerce brand is too generic to warrant exclusivity.

Microsoft has filed a complaint against Apple with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, claiming that the iPhone maker's attempt to claim exclusive rights to the "App Store" moniker should be voided.

In its filing with the USPTO, Microsoft says "App Store" is too much an everyday term to be trademarked.

"'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," Microsoft states. And, leaving nothing to chance, the Windows vendor points out that, "'Store' is generic for the 'retail store services' for which Apple seeks registration, and indeed, Apple refers to its 'App Store' as a store."

Microsoft claims Apple should therefore not be allowed exclusive title to the "App Store" brand.

"These facts alone establish genericness as a matter of law under the cases holding that a generic product name followed by 'store' is generic for retail store services featuring the product," Microsoft states in its complaint.

"The undisputed facts further show that the combined term 'app store' is commonly used in the trade, by the general press, by consumers, by Apple's competitors and even by Apple's founder and CEO Steve Jobs, as the generic name for online stores featuring apps."

While the dispute may seem semantic, the stakes are high. Microsoft is trying to dent Apple's iPhone-led dominance of the smartphone market with the recent launch of its Windows Phone 7 operating system. Along with the phone OS, Microsoft introduced an "App Marketplace" where developers can hawk their Windows Phone 7 applications to consumers.

Clearly, Microsoft would also like to use the term "App Store" to describe its online software shop. "Apple cannot leverage its early success to prevent competitors from using this generic term for their own app stores," Microsoft states in its filing with the USPTO.

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