Microsoft Claims that Apple Can’t Trademark “App Store”, Proceeds to Throw a Legal Hissy Fit

What do you do when your company has 66 billion dollars in revenue from last year? Invest in lots of hot startup companies and acquire more talented employees? No. You hire a highly-paid team of lawyers to file a pathetic motion for trademark denial to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

That’s exactly what the giant industry grandfather, Microsoft, has done. Apple has already trademarked the phrase, “There’s an app for that.” But Microsoft doesn’t think that Apple should have the rights to also trademark the term “App Store.”

Although it’s unclear as to whether Microsoft will win this appeal, it seems that Apple would have a stronger case. After all, the App Store has practically become a household name…

Microsoft’s motion is interesting to read. The document argues that Apple’s trademark is too generic, and that other variations of the term should be free to use by all companies.

“Any secondary meaning or fame Apple has in ‘App Store’ is de facto secondary meaning that cannot convert the generic term ‘app store’ into a protectable trademark,” write lawyers for Microsoft in a motion for summary judgment, filed yesterday with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

“Apple cannot block competitors from using a generic name. ‘App store’ is generic and therefore in the public domain and free for all competitors to use.”

MacRumors gives a little history behind this new feud Microsoft has with Apple,

“Apple has been trying since July 2008 to convince the Patent and Trademark Office to grant a trademark on the phrase, with examiners initially denying the application under the rationale that the term is merely descriptive of the services offered by Apple.

Apple appealed the decision a few months later, submitting a stack of evidence showing that the term had acquired distinctiveness in marketing materials and media coverage. In response, examiners tentatively decided to award Apple the trademark and published it for opposition in January 2010.”

Microsoft thinks it’s unfair that Apple can trademark such a “generic” term when other companies could benefit from using the term to describe their products more effectively.

If you think about it, all of the other companies with mobile “app stores” use different variations of Apple’s famous term. It is clear that Apple seems to hold the monopoly with the public’s perception of what constitutes an “App Store”, but should other companies be able to implore this term? It seems like a bunch of different “App Stores” would only confuse the average consumer.

Microsoft’s motion does have some good points. For instance, it quotes when Steve Jobs himself used the term generically to describe “app stores for Android.” Ouch.

What do you think about all this? It seems like Microsoft may just want to throw a little temper tantrum (their Windows 7 app “Marketplace” is little vacant), but perhaps there is a real, valuable reason behind this plea. I guess the courts will decide.

[via TechFlash]