Apple Fails to Block's Use of 'Appstore'

Apple failed in court to block from using the term "Appstore" to describe its app storefront. Apple is trying to lock down the rights to "App Store."

Apple wanted a U.S. District judge to immediately halt's use of the term "Appstore."

The judge said, "No."

That's the latest twist in the trademark-infringement lawsuit leveled by Apple against Amazon. Both companies offer online storefronts for mobile applications. However, Apple claims that customers could confuse Amazon's "Appstore" with its own "App Store."

But U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton ruled against Apple, stating in a July 6 order that Apple had not demonstrated the potential for confusion with Amazon's storefront. Despite Amazon's win-which will allow it to continue using "Appstore"-the retailer still faces trial in October 2012.

Amazon has claimed that "app store" is too generic a term for one company to trademark.

"Defendants admit that Amazon has not received a license or authorization from Apple to use the term -app store,'" read Amazon's April response to Apple's lawsuit, "and contend that no such license or authorization is required because -app store' is a generic term, and Amazon's use of the term causes no likelihood of confusion, dilution or unfair competition."

At the time, Amazon launched a counterclaim against Apple, asking the court to dismiss the latter's trademark claims to the term "app store." The online retailer also asked that Apple pay attorney's fees and expenses, along with "any such other and further relief as the court deems appropriate."

Amazon's counterclaim boils down to linguistics:

"Based on their common meaning, the words -app store' together denote a store for apps, such as the app stores operated by Amazon and Apple," the filing continued. "The American Dialect Society, a leading group of U.S. linguists, recently voted -app' as the -Word of the Year' for 2010, noting that although the word -has been around for ages,' it -really exploded in the last 12 months.'"

Amazon isn't the first company to lock horns with Apple over the trademark to the term "app store." Microsoft and Apple are already locked in battle over the latter's desire for the trademark, with Microsoft arguing in a filing before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Trial and Appeal Board that "app store" is "generic for retail store services featuring apps and unregisterable for ancillary services such as searching for and downloading apps from such stores."

The Apple vs. Amazon case is filed with the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California under Apple Inc. v. Inc, 11-1327.