Will the Term 'App Store' Get Your Company Sued?

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on January 07, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When Apple sued Amazon for naming its mobile application marketplace the "Appstore," it created an open question about how much power Apple's trademark had.

Thankfully for Amazon and other companies that sell mobile apps, it looks like the answer to that question is "not much" -- at least when it comes to the term "app store." U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton has granted summary judgment on one count of Apple's claim.

The lawsuit will go forward with respect to several other claims related to trademark infringement. But Judge Hamilton's ruling suggests that they won't be very successful.

In the decision granting summary judgment on Apple's claim of false advertising, Judge Hamilton noted that the name "Appstore" is not a statement about the character of products Amazon is selling, according to Wired.

She also noted that customers are unlikely to be confused about what products Amazon sells when it calls its store the "Appstore." There's no reason consumers would think it was selling iPhone and iPad products, the judge explained.

The ruling was confined to the issue of false advertising, but it could potentially be applied to the claims of trademark infringement in general. That could be bad news for Apple.

It also doesn't help that Apple's executives don't appear to have treated the term as an exclusive description.

As part of its case, Amazon points out instances in which Apple CEO Tim Cook and former CEO Steve Jobs referred to competitors' marketplaces as "app stores," reports TechCrunch. That seems to work against Apple's argument.

If that evidence ends up being central to the case, then Apple's lawyers will likely be kicking themselves for not keeping the CEOs in check. But you can learn from their mistakes before it becomes an issue for your client.

While this ruling does give some insight into Judge Hamilton's thoughts, the bulk of the case is still undecided. The remainder of the issues are set to go to trial in August.

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