Apple & Amazon Ordered to Attempt Settlement in "App Store" Suit

Apple Amazon App Store Lawsuit Settlement

Apple and Amazon have been ordered by the court overseeing their trademark lawsuit to attempt settlement negotiations before the case heads to trial, according to a report by Bloomberg late Tuesday. The dispute stems from a lawsuit Apple filed against Amazon in March 2011, alleging that the online retailer improperly used the “App Store” name, which Amazon claims is too generic to warrant trademark protection.

Apple attempted to trademark the phrase “App Store” in 2008, shortly after launching its online marketplace for iOS content. On March 22, 2011, Amazon opened its “Appstore for Android,” as it was then called, in an attempt to create a curated environment for the open Android platform and support its Kindle Fire product line.

In response, Apple filed a lawsuit against Amazon, claiming that the latter company’s use of “Appstore” misappropriated Apple’s “App Store” mark and that Amazon “unlawfully used the App Store mark to solicit software developers” and would serve to “confuse and mislead consumers.”

Amazon later changed the name of its store to simply the “Amazon Appstore,” at which time Apple added a false advertising claim to its suit, arguing that Amazon was now attempting to falsely advertise to consumers that its “Appstore” was the equivalent to Apple’s “App Store.”

Amazon has responded to Apple’s complaints by arguing that “app store” has become too generic to mean only Apple’s implementation of an online app marketplace. Amazon used in its defense statements made by several key Apple executives, including the late Steve Jobs, who on various occasions publicly referred to competing app marketplaces as “app stores.”

App Store Steve JobsLate Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduces the Apple App Store to developers in 2008.

“So there will be at least four app stores on Android, which customers must search among to find the app they want and developers will need to work with to distribute their apps and get paid. This is going to be a mess for both users and developers. Contrast this with Apple’s integrated App Store, which offers users the easiest-to-use largest app store in the world, preloaded on every iPhone,” late Apple CEO Steve Jobs told investors in an early 2011 earnings call.

Further supporting Amazon’s case is the fact that other companies used and attempted to trademark variations of “app store” long before Apple introduced the name, including efforts by Sage Networks in 1998 and Salesforce in 2000.

Now the lawsuit, Apple Inc. v. Inc. et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 11–01327, is scheduled to go to trial in August but Judge Elizabeth Laporte has ordered the companies to try and reach a settlement before then. Representatives and attorneys for both companies are required to meet on March 21, with the hope of avoiding a lengthy and expensive trial.

Apple’s application for “App Store” was initially granted by the US Patent & Trademark office, but a group led by Microsoft filed a challenge to the trademark in January 2011.

Both Apple and Amazon have yet to comment publicly on the lawsuit’s recent development.

Teaser graphic via Shutterstock.

[via CNET]