back to article Microsoft, Nokia, HTC fight Apple's 'App store' trademark

Microsoft is joining a challenge to Apple's European trademark of Appstore and App Store. The software giant is joining with mobile firms HTC, Nokia and Sony Ericsson to challenge Apple's trademark in Europe. Amazon has filed a similar complaint. The companies want the trademark dismissed as too generic – which might seem a bit …

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Dead Vulture

The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

"which might seem a bit cheeky from the holder of a trademark on the word Windows."

Oh please. If they had a trademark for Windows in the context of bits of colourless transparent glass commonly found in houses you might have a point but they don't they have a trademark for windows in the context of computer software. Similarly if Apple were applying for a trademark for AppStore in the context of Dogfood I doubt anyone would care but they aren't they are applying for it in the context of a store which sells apps.

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Anonymous Coward

"Windows" was used in computing well before Microsoft

You know those rectangle boxes with stuff on them, like the very browser you typed into? That's one of them.

Now if I wanted to release my windowing system and call it AC Windows, Microsoft would come after me.

Like your name GatesFabois :-) upfront and clear.

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FAIL

Title

Oh so microsoft is suing other os's which refer to these rectangle things as windows then? No ?didn't think so. Despite trademarking the proper noun for it's OS MS have not made any effort to restrict the use of the phrase windows in computing as a common noun. Apple on the other hand want to trademark appstore as a proper noun and also curtail the use of appstore as a common noun.

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Anonymous Coward

Curtailing common noun? Not at all

There's not curtailing of that here. What Apple has curtailed is other companies starting shops called "App Store", just like Microsoft would curtail me if I started selling computer software called "AC Windows" but is fine with me calling things windows all day long.

I mean they even litigated over something called "Lindows", image what they would do if it was actually called Windows.

We get it, you're Gates Fanbois like your name says.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC

Did MS sue for OpenWindows? X-Windows? No, they didn't. The reason that they sued for Lindows was because the company were using the name to imply that the system was MS Windows like to the extent that you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. It's called passing off.

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Flame

Re: The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

"Oh please. If they had a trademark for Windows in the context of bits of colourless transparent glass commonly found in houses you might have a point but they don't they have a trademark for windows in the context of computer software."

They have an illegitimate trademark for a word used to describe a concept that pre-dates Microsoft Windows by over a decade. Granting a trademark for Windows is like letting some baker have the trademark "Pies" or "Baps" or "Loaves" - just one of those words on its own - and letting them go around threatening people (remember that wxWindows had to be renamed to wxWidgets under duress) is like letting that baker sue every bakery and food producer in the land that uses "pies" or "baps" or "loaves" in their trading name.

Oh please, indeed. The whole issue is the blatant monopolisation of common words and concepts in the very domain that they are being used - it has nothing to do with other domains where trademark claims wouldn't stick - and Microsoft and Apple just love these tactics because it deters people from straying anywhere near their precious turf, whether those people had any intention of doing so or not.

Never mind a title being required, how about a clue?

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Headmaster

@AC 11:07

Shows how much you know.. OpenWindow was dead already, why would Microsoft have any interested in suing, it was being replaced by CDE even as Windows 3.11 was coming to market.

As for your other example maybe it's because it's not called X-Windows, but actually the X Window System. (note the singular Window)

But I'm glad you bring up the "passing off" concept, because that's exactly what's happening in this particular case.

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Silver badge

Didn't I read somewhere...

that Microsoft's lawyers recommended that they accept Lindows' offer to just change their name because they were likely to loose the trademark if the case actually went to court? I can't remember where I read that so it's possible that I didn't. All the same, the term was in common use before Microsoft started using it. By my understanding of the applicable laws that makes it illegitimate.

App store is another case completely, but it seems pretty generic. I'm clueless on what the law says about that, but I wouldn't be suprised to see the courts decide against Apple.

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Stop

Amen

This:

"which might seem a bit cheeky from the holder of a trademark on the word Windows..."

is not a direct comparison. It would only be relevant if MS had called their software "Operating System". Which, in fact, Apple have come closer to doing ("OS X").

Presumably if MS *had* called their software Operating System and then tried to restrict others from using that term then the people here who inexplicably support Apple having ownership of something as basic as the phrase "app store" would have given them a solid beating.

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Anonymous Coward

@@AC 11:07 / Shows how much you know...

Think about it a bit:

"OpenWindows was being replaced by CDE as Win 3.11 was coming to market..."

There were several versions of MS Windows prior to 3.11, as the name sort of suggests, starting in 1985, they were:

1, 2, 2.1, 3, 3.1

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 14:39

We get it, you don't have a clue about the history of computing.

Not many people really used Windows before version 3.0 and even then Microsoft was trying to fool IBM in saying they were dropping DOS+Windows in favour of OS/2.

At the time I think they were more counting their blessings that Sun wasn't the one suing them.

Don't even say Windows 1 because you couldn't really even buy that, it came free with DTP products like Pagemaker.

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@GatesFanbois

I sold a few domains like WindowsPCgames.com, WindowsPCsoftware.com on eBay and eBay got take down notices from Microsoft's lawyers .. then I got an email from Microsoft lawyers to turn over the WindowsPC****** names I had not sold

I had completed the transactions before the eBay notice, so I just told them to screw themselves, I no longer owned them, and the ones that didn't sell ( and were basicly worthless anyway ) were very close to expiring, so I just deleted them myself and told them to talk to the registrar .. lol ...

now, they likely could not have forced me to turn anything over, and it probably wasn't worth the $2000 ICANN fee for MS to go to ICANN .. but they do make the threat ..

Interestingly .. "Windows PC" is not trademarked .. "Apple PC" is trademarked

I still own a couple of valuable WindowsComputer*****.com + .net names, yet have not heard from MS about those

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re: Didn't I read somewhere...

yes and a clue would be that it was Microsoft who paid millions to Lindows instead of the other way around.

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Paris Hilton

What about M$ use of...

Isn't this similar to microsloth's use of 'office, 'word', 'money' etc? Sort of do as I say, not as I do on their part.

Oh... the opposite of loose is tight. The opposite of win or find is lose.

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Ok

I'm going to trademark the word Burger than sue all the restaurants that sell burgers because I trademarked it. Burger is short for Hamburger just like App is short for Application.. Windows is the name of the software just like Android or Mac OS. You don't see people getting upset because apple has the trademark Mac which mac being short for Macintosh because thats the name of their computer line and OS, just like Windows is the name of Microsoft OS. The problem is that anyone who wants to have an "App" store should be able to because that is a generic name. If apple wanted to trademark their next OS and call it "App OS" that would be fine because it would be the name of their OS but not letting other companies use the word App in reference to their "App store" is to general. Now if someone wanted to call their App store Apple App Store then that would be wrong. Just like anyone can make a restaurant called "name here" burgers.

Apple will probably loose the suite then everyone will have an app store and apple will be pissed, but oh well.

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@AC

Here is the thing the word app is short for application plus every company that has an "application store" for its tablet, phone, browser, OS, should be able to shorten it. That would be like Mc Donalds trademarking the word "Burger" so no other company could use it then Burger King would be "Hamburger King" (I'm not sure who first used the term burger so I'm just using Mc Donalds as an example. Or someone trademarking the word fries so every other company has to use "french Fries", or the word "Cam" so other companies have to use the word Camera.

Windows is the name of the OS. No one is saying that apple can't call their OS OSX. They're just saying apple can't trademark the shortened version of the word "Application" So there is the difference and why Windows isn't doing anything wrong and apple is and shouldn't get away with trademarking the word App.

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Pint

There's an App Store for that

One can't really blame Apple for trying, no matter how ridiculous it is. Apple is a company and is duty-bound to try to gain any advantage it can over competitors, they'd be failing in that duty not to try.

I blame the US Patent Office for creating the situation (even culture and expectation) that the ridiculous and 'with prior art' can get protection which should have been refused.

When such nonsense is allowed to happen it makes it well worth taking a punt on such nonsense winning again when it has such rewards if you can pull it off. I don't think Apple really expect to win, but it's fair to say they don't necessarily expect to lose, though they likely know they should.

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Coffee/keyboard

app

I'm not so sure this will hold up. Apple coined the term "App" with the introduction of their App store. Plus the similarity in the name; App(le)

The companies complaining, choose to follow Apple by referring to the software running on their stuff Apps as well, where they could also have come up with some other own hip name for programs running on Mobile Devices

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Puhleeeeze

Using app or apps as a contraction for application is as old as the hills, or at least the PC (although probably older than this, but I have no references).

I'm fairly certain it was in common use in the 1980s. It's difficult to find references, because the Internet didn't exist back then, and most things were documented on paper. Maybe someone could trawl Usenet archives to try and find the earliest reference, or go through the Personal Computer World archives to try to find the earliest example.

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Troll

a

I refuse to believe that is a serious post ... you just cannot possibly be seriously saying that ...

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@RegKees

You sir are a troll.

It has been established and discussed many times that the term 'App' was in use long before Apple started using it.

If you didn't know this already yourself then you are suffering from extreme ignorance and should take steps to correct such.

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WTF?

seriously

Are you seriously suggesting that the term App was never used to refer to Applications until Apple started using it? REALLY?

It really wasnt a common abbreviation of applications before that? REALLY?!?!?

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Apple coined "App"?

Really?

Are you quite sure about that?

Reason I ask is that I'm pretty sure I remember using the term fairly extensively years before the iPhone and its related store-of-applications were so much as a twinkle in Mr Jobbie's eye.

Still, let's not allow mere mundane reality get in the way of a good argument, right? After all, Apple invented the smartphone (years after other companies had started selling them) so why couldn't they also coin a phrase that had been used for years beforehand? Nothing is impossible, all you have to do is *believe*...

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"Software"

But , no, no, no, no, no, and no.

In 1979, VisiCalc spreadsheet was a "killer app", a reason to buy the computer to run that application software (application of general-function computer hardware to a specific practical or aesthetic purpose).

Admittedly the computer was an Apple II PC, but Apple didn't and don't own the word "app", nor did it depend on the company name "Apple" - as far as I know; this is 32 years ago.

We've had killer apps ever since.

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Anonymous Coward

@Trolls

You sirs are sheep.

Where's the proof of this "established" knowledge? Come on, if it's that well established show us an example before Apple, where the term App was used has the general term for mobile applications.

You better make sure that example was there before 2008 otherwise I'll be ripping your info apart and make you look stupid.

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@Your Retarded

You'll find that Apple initially used the term "application" after the Apple II was released in 1977 and the contraction thereof "app" soon after that. It was certainly the standard way of referring to software by the time the Lisa came out 6 years later. Now, I'm pretty sure there are only a couple of examples of the word being used prior to that. I'm not saying they coined the term, but they were certainly using the term at least 30 years ago, which is certainly before most of the plaintiffs were in the game, obviously with the exception of Microsoft who until recently were using the term "program" or "software" to describe their offerings. Apple have been producing computers for longer than most of the commentards here have been alive, you'd do well to remember that.

"If you didn't know this already yourself then you are suffering from extreme ignorance and should take steps to correct such." Ditto.

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Anonymous Coward

@@Trolls

Err... The best example I can think of is the adoption of the Apple ][ machine becuase of it's 'killer app' the spreadsheet, also the adoption of the IBM PC with its 'killer app' Lotus 123.

Furthermore, in the 1980s on the BBC micro, I had my ADFS directories setup as 'apps', 'games', 'docs' which suggests that the term 'app' was around then.

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In front of me...

I still have my Agenda. You remember, £200 for 32K RAM, a 5-key chorded keypad, and two little sockets for ROM packs on the top. These were for 'apps' - and (although I can't put my hand on it) were IIRC referred to as such in the manuals.

(Still works, as does my Commodore SR7919 calc. after 35 years...)

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Anonymous Coward

* yawn *

All very interesting, but it doesn't even matter whether Apple used the term 'app' before anybody else. The term became widely used before 'app stores' were even thought of and was understood as applying to applications in general, eg: in the phrase 'killer app'.

The term 'app store' just combines the accepted meaning of two words in a very literal way. It's like a gerbil retailer trying to trademark 'pet shop'!

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@AC 10:44

"Where's the proof of this "established" knowledge? Come on, if it's that well established show us an example before Apple, where the term App was used has the general term for mobile applications.

You better make sure that example was there before 2008 otherwise I'll be ripping your info apart and make you look stupid."

Let's take a look at the wayback machine, shall we?

http://replay.web.archive.org/20030414024326/http://www.catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/entry/app.html

I believe that pretty well rips your argument apart and makes you look stupid. Have a nice day.

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Anonymous Coward

@sisk

LOL no it doesn't, we're not discussing general "app" here, and even if we were the Oxford English Dictionary already showed us that Apple was the first using the term "app" back in 1985. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/24907

What I said was let's have proof of that other companies were calling applications running on mobile devices "apps", as a general commercial term.

So good try, but no cigar. Nice day to you too.

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Happy

Apps aint Apps sol

Hmm,

I always thought it was quite cute how Apple managed to name the Apple Applications Store. The "App" has a double meaning and I think that is quite clever.

Dweeb

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Thumb Down

Apple coined.. app?

You have to be kidding me. Apple's supposed inventions are usually refinements of something that came before, and then claimed as revolutionary.

They definitely did not coin the term "app".

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FAIL

@sisk and others

You asked for proof that the term app was used for mobile devices prior to 2008. Here it is:

http://lifehacker.com/210731/12-killer-apps-for-palm-pdas

The article was published in October 2006 and talks about apps for palm devices. I personally remember calling them apps way before them as a regular Palm user.

sisk, you, Sir, are a troll, and I have found the bridge under which you live. Please report immediately to the fail blog.

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Coat

Eh?

How exactly am I a troll? Someone asked for proof that 'app' was in use before 2008 and I provided it. App has been in use to describe applications in general, including mobile applications, forever. THAT was my point. How does that make me a troll? Did you even read the link I posted?

Screw it, I'm leaving. And I'll not be reporting to any fscking bridge.

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Jobs Halo

Such a generic phrase

How many online application/games sellers used App Store before Apple brought the term into the public consciousness?

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Gold badge

Microsoft are the worst offenders

I don't think Microsoft can complain about normal words being trademarked, look at the Office trademarks. Even "Office" is a trademark.

http://www.microsoft.com/about/legal/en/us/IntellectualProperty/Trademarks/Usage/Office.aspx

Publisher and Project too. Even the actual word "Word" is a trademark.

You could be on shaky ground if you called your product Acme Word Processor and Microsoft would argue that it might sound like a tool that processed Word documents.

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FAIL

Are they?

What like Libre Office, Open Office, KOfiice etc.. or Atlantis Word Processor?

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fair point

however, a trade mark is a mark that you trade with - if my product is called Air then Air is my tm.

I'd have no real way to sue anyone for using the word as it has meaning beyond my product, but if they went into competition against me and subsequently used Air to describe *their* product, I'd have grounds for legal action.

It's all about context and although I think Apple don't have all rights to the word "App", they *do* have a product that is named "Appstore", it is that fact that means they could pursue legal action against someone else making an app store and calling it "Appstore" or having that in the name.

I think they're a bunch of shady, fanatical thieves myself but to my knowledge, they are not under an obligation to give up their trademark purely because the word has other meanings.

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WTF?

You do know that...

..."Office" is not actually an office and when you buy "Word" they don't just sell you something written on a piece of paper, right? Office is an office software suite and Word is a word processing programme. If MS had called their software "Word Processor" or "Software for use by businesses" then you may have a point. But they didn't.

FFS, how hard is this? App store has zero metaphor to it - it is a literal definition of the thing. That's why it's so stupid to try to trademark it. Imagine I tried to trademark "Shop that sells bicycles" or "Grocery Store" or something. These are literal descriptions of what the business does. Hence they belong generically to the language, not to any one company.

It is absurd if Google cannot describe their Marketplace as being "an app store". Just as it would be stupid if Mr Green could not describe his fruit and veg stall as being "a grocery store" or Mr Bun could not call his bakery "a bread shop" because some fool, backed by a bunch of blinkered fanboys, was able to get the trademark. It's utterly retarded.

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Thumb Up

Indeed

You sir are correct.

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Anonymous Coward

Haha

I'd love to know what that professor made of the word Windows.

Nice to see Nokia there as well, being the company that trademarked the expression "Comes With Music", "Mobile Soccer" plus other gems as detailed here http://www.nokia.co.uk/home/site-terms/trademarks.

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Just rename it as app shop

Just rename it as App Shop and get over it - the same way Google has renamed it as "Market".

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Jobs Horns

Oh, the irony

Change your outlet's name. Not that big of a deal.

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MrT
Bronze badge

Or...

... if Apple want the rights to use the abbreviation "App", everyone else should use a different way of shortening the word "Application".

How about "Appl. Store"...? Ah no, because "Appl." already mostly brings up Apple links on Google, with or without the punctuation that indicates it's a longer word shortened.

"Appstor" then? Fighting Napster for an almost identical name must be easier than Apple...

Apple is not the only retailer of applications. What Apple is basically claiming is the right to be the only company that uses a certain widely used abbreviation of "application" next to a certain widely used word for "retail establishment selling items to the public". "App Store" is not so much a name as a description.

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Progstore?

For prog(ram)s?

(Trollstore, for Apple fanbois?)

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Happy

A Better Term?

Application Retail Store Emporium.

Or ARSE for short.

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Happy

The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

So, should I wish to select a preferred option, I would have to pick my... nonononono! I couldn't say that!!!

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.app

has since the introduction of OSX been the Mac equivalent of .exe (and I think it comes from NeXT before that). Unquestionably Jobsian territory.

I agree with many of the comments above: Especially those who say that Microsoft are in an absurd position after trademarking "Windows" and "Word" - which are single words, and complaining about a pairing of words, which was certainly not on anyone's mind before Apple started selling iPhone software this way.

Before the iPhone, handheld software was invariably called software, or programs, or categorised as utilities or games or whatever. I don't remember running into the use of the term "app" outside the Apple universe until the iPhone hit it big. It may have been used occasionally by developers, but it was certainly a rarity in marketing contexts. It should be possible to make some kind of statistical analysis using the wayback machine to prove this point.

Also fully agree with AC that this shows real lack of imagination that they can't come up with another name, like Google have. ExeStore? heheh Well, we know that MS lacks imagination, but HTC and Nokia should perform better than this.

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Boffin

Re: .app

"I don't remember running into the use of the term "app" outside the Apple universe until the iPhone hit it big."

The RISC OS 3 desktop had a folder called Apps on the icon bar containing the built-in applications. That pre-dates the iPhone by almost two decades.

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