Nokia, Microsoft, Sony Ericcson, and HTC have all filed protests with EU regulatory authorities challenging Apple’s trademark on the terms “App Store” and “Appstore.” Bloomberg reported that the four handset makers have filed separate requests in Alicante, Spain seeking to have Apple’s trademarks invalidated.
Speaking for the four companies, Microsoft issued a statement saying that they were “seeking to invalidate Apple’s trademark registration for ‘APP STORE’ and ‘APPSTORE’ because we believe that they should not have been granted because they both lack distinctiveness.”
Apple was granted a trademark for the terms in the U.S. and EU alike, and those trademarks will allow the company to keep other companies from using either form of the name in their own online app stores. Just as it has in the U.S., Microsoft (and the other companies) are arguing that usage such as the way we worded it just now makes the term generic, and thus not eligible for protection.
This is why Microsoft’s own online store is called “Windows Phone Apps Marketplace,” while Google has its “Android Marketplace.” Amazon, however, threw caution to the wind and called its Android marketplace the “Amazon Android Appstore,” which resulted in an immediate challenge from Apple and a countersuit from Amazon seeking to get the trademark invalidated.
The reality is that Apple’s creation of this method for selling mobile apps instantly established the company’s App Store as the definitive term for such online stores. This is why Apple wants to have the name protected by a trademark, and it is conversely why the company’s competitors want to strip that protection away from the iPhone market.
There have been no rulings yet in the various U.S. and EU challenges and lawsuits, which could take many months, if not longer, to be resolved. For this new raft of challenges in the EU, Bloomberg said that whatever decision is eventually handed down could be appealed to the EU’s top court, which is located in Luxembourg.
What’s in a name? Everything.