Microsoft Objects to Apple's App Store Trademark Attempt

Microsoft has filed an objection to Apple's attempt to trademark the term "app store," according to legal documents.

Apple wants to trademark the term "app store," but not if Microsoft can throw a legal barrier in its path.

Apple originally filed its trademark request July 2008, within weeks of its App Store launch. The App Store offers hundreds of thousands of apps for the company's mobile devices, including the iPhone and iPad, outpacing similar efforts by Google, Microsoft and Research In Motion.

Now Microsoft's apparently decided to push back, with news of its latest filing widely circulating among the online tech media.

"Microsoft opposes Apple's Application Serial No. 77/525433 for APP STORE," reads the company's Jan. 10 motion for summary judgment, filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, "on the grounds that -app store' is generic for retail store services featuring apps and unregistrable for ancillary services such as searching for and downloading apps from such stores."

Furthermore, insists Microsoft's legal counsel, "The undisputed facts further show that the combined term -app store' is commonly used in the trade, by the general press, by consumers, by Apple's competitors and even by Apple's founder and CEO Steve Jobs, as the generic name for online stores featuring apps." Therefore, it adds, Apple should not have an exclusive lock on the name.

"An opposition is now pending at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board," reads the "Current Status" for Apple's trademark request on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Website.

Apple and Verizon Wireless executives took to a stage in New York City Jan. 11 to unveil an iPhone running on the latter's CDMA-based network. That breaks AT&T's long-held exclusivity for the smartphone in the United States, and it could drive a heightened rate of adoption that, in turn, could boost the number of third-party developers crafting apps for the company's App Store.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's recently released Windows Phone 7 boasts an online marketplace of 5,500 apps and growing. Unlike the iPhone and Google Android devices, Windows Phone 7 smartphones consolidate Web content and apps into a series of subject-specific "Hubs" with labels such as "Games" and "People." During his Jan. 5 keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told the audience: "More than half our customers downloaded a new application today."

Despite Microsoft's newfound aggression in the mobile space, it faces something of an uphill battle against Apple's iOS and Android, which have respectively sold millions of units over the past few years. Microsoft claims that manufacturers have sold some 1.5 million Windows Phone 7 units to retailers, although it remains unclear how many of those devices have found their way into consumers' hands.