Who owns the trademark “App Store?” Well, Apple filed a trademark application in 2008, the same year it launched its iTunes App Store and the iPhone 3G. Now there is a mandatory period that allows opposition from other parties. Not so surprisingly, Microsoft is disputing the proposed trademark, claiming that the term is a generic one and that “app store” should “continue to be available for use by all without fear of reprisal by Apple.” (Microsoft’s filing is here.)
According to the BBC’s report, Russell Pangborn, Microsoft’s general counsel said “An ‘app store’ is an ‘app store’….Like ‘shoe store’ or ‘toy store’, it is a generic term that is commonly used by companies, governments and individuals that offer apps.”
Apple’s application specifies that the phrase describes “retail store services featuring computer software for use on handheld mobile digital electronic devices and other consumer electronics.” Under trademark law, a generic name of a product can never function as a trademark to indicate origin. The function of a trademark is to identify and distinguish the goods or services of one seller from those sold by all others. Because a generic term is not capable of distinguishing the source of one product from another, it cannot be registered as a trademark or service mark on the federal register. If Microsoft can prove the mark is generic, they may have won the battle… for now.