Microsoft, Nokia Take Apple App Store Battle to Europe

Microsoft, Nokia and two other companies have filed requests to deny Apple the trademark to "App Store" in the European Union.

The battle over "App Store" continues, with Microsoft and Nokia filing requests with the European Union's trademark agency to invalidate Apple's trademark claim to the term.

Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB and HTC have joined with Microsoft and Nokia in filing separate counterclaims, according to Bloomberg. Both "App Store" and "Appstore" are in the companies' collective cross hairs. "We believe that they should not have been granted because they both lack distinctiveness," reads a Microsoft statement on the matter.

Microsoft is already battling Apple over trademark claims to "App Store" in the United States, where the former argued 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." has also locked legal horns with Apple over the term, with the two companies exchanging tit-for-tat lawsuits. Apple's original lawsuit, filed March 18, took the online retailer to task for its Appstore for Android, which exists separately from Android Marketplace, the cloud-based bazaar for hundreds of thousands of applications for Android-based smartphones and tablets.

"Defendants admit that Amazon has not received a license or authorization from Apple to use the term -app store,'" read part of Amazon's 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."

Amazon's counterclaim reduced the argument 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 read. "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 had been around for ages, it -really exploded in the last 12 months.'"

Microsoft used a similar tactic in its own filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, arguing that "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."

In its own response to Microsoft, filed Feb. 28, Apple shot back: "Microsoft, missing the forest for the trees, does not base its motion on a comprehensive evaluation of how the relevant public understands the term APP STORE as a whole." It followed that with a zinger: "What it offers instead are out-of-context and misleading snippets of material printed by its outside counsel from the Internet and allegations regarding how the public allegedly interprets the constituent parts of the term APP STORE, i.e. -app' and -store.'"

Despite all the legal energy expended-not to mention counsels' billable hours racked up-it looks as if the battle over trademarking two simple words will continue for some time to come.