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back to article Apple, Amazon trademark spat turns surreal

Apple has slapped back at Amazon in their messy legal tête-à-tête over whether the online megaretailer's Appstore for Android is a violation of Apple's trademark for the term "app store" – and its arguments are becoming increasingly surreal. "Apple denies that the mark APP STORE is generic and, on that basis, denies that the …

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WTF?

OK....

The first question from the judge has to be....

If the App Store isn't a store for apps... what is it?

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Easy answer

It's a store where apps are sold, and "App Store" is a unique name that could just as well have been "Program Shop" or "Software Seller" or "Petunia" or "Honeycomb" or "Bloward's".

It's just like "Kleenex" and "Velcro". Those are not generic terms; they refer to specific trademarked brand names.

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Jobs Horns

Not Exactly

The same arguments were made for "Aspirin" and "Band-Aid". However, because of the force of popular usage, both terms were found NOT to be exclusive to any single entity. So today you have many makers of Aspirin and Band-Aids. More often than not you do see "Plastic first aid strips" or some such. But that was to distance themselves from the original maker of "Band-Aids" for marketing reason. There are many instances of non Bayer Aspirin.

"App Store" will never be limited to The Sacred J's usage alone and he knows it. But he can't give up without a "good" fight. The faithful demand it because after all, they are the faithful however misguided they might be.

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FAIL

well, that might work

if App Store was a unique name, but it isn't. an App is a generic term for an application, Store is a generic term for where you buy things. therefore App Store is a generic term for a place you can buy applications.

If "kleenex" was called "tissue" you may have a point, but you don't.

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@Mike Powers

Velcro is not the same. If the people behind Velcro tried to trademark "Sticky fabric", they would find themselves in difficulty, no?

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Argh, I'm on a tangent, Not Exactly

I don't identify with 'Band Aid', maybe it is a US brand. It reminds me of the unshaven musician guy. Elastoplast sticks in my memory, so I just rooted about and found 'Fast Aid assorted plasters' - quite catchy, and Porous wound dressings. Seems like I've been down the Pound Shop(TM). I also have Clotrimazole cream, at 1/4 of the price of Canestan, but not so catchy. Ok, I'll try to be serious next time.

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Silver badge

Well

Before Bayer invented their synthetic willow bark, "aspirin" didn't exist as a word, so that is a slightly different case. The full explanation of how it became a generic word in Europe would involve invoking Goodwin's law, so I won't.

I can't comment on Band-Aid. In the UK, we call them plasters, and I'm not even sure that Band-Aid branded plasters are available for sale here. Certainly the Superdrug and Boots websites don't come up with anything, nor does mysupermarket. Those are the places most people would shop for such things.

App Store is a much weaker case than Aspirin. It might be similar to Portakabin which is vigorously defended by its owners.

I suppose Steve could argue that App stands for Apple rather than Application.

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Happy

Re: Band Aid

I don't know which side of the pond Band-Aid originated, but I'm pretty sure that the unshaven musician guy was aware of the pun in "Band Aid" and he's East-Pondian.

Perhaps he and I are just older than you. The UK market these days is dominated by own-brand stuff and child-friendly things like "Mr Happy".

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FAIL

re Velcro

If Velcro (think apple) had called their product "sticky plastic" instead and others called theirs "sitcky plastic" then it would have been the same sort of thing.

apple then say "sticky plastic"(TM) is not the same as "sticky plastic" i.e. plastic that is sticky. And that their "sticky plastic"(TM) should supercede other "sticky plastic".

Lunacy.

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Boffin

@ DavCrav

I agree with the core of your point but you shot yourself in the foot by choosing Velco. Velcr does indeed stand for Velours Crochet (velvet hook in French), so is close to app store -although abbreviated enough to be specific, I think. Not so much for app store)... shame, as all the other examples would have been fine for your argument!

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Joke

@ jonathanb

"I suppose Steve could argue that App stands for Apple rather than Application."

That wouldn't work, because that would assume that you could BUY apples there; but as everyone knows, you never buy an Apple, Apple just deign to let you use one.

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Stop

True...

... but Spam is also a registered trademark, and the name is also an abbreviation of what it is: "SPiced hAM".

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Happy

The trademark is apparently for SPAM

... not Spam.

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Spam

The way I understood it Spam is a form of processed meat from the US.

It was popularised in the UK (and possibly EU) by Monty Python.

There was no way manufacturers Hormel could (or would) have done anything about the Monty Python sketch, it boosted sales and was in no way derogatory.

Then as a result of the Monty Python sketch where it's repetition is the humour the word was carried into another realm as a description for (repetitive) junk email.

Hornel at some point tried to assert the trademark over companies selling anti-junk email software and using the word spam in their marketing.

They quite rightly failed because the word had become generic in the context of junk email, that and it was not competing in the same industry (food vs software) and it was not adversely affecting Hornel and the sales of Spam.

Hornel were very lucky to have had their product popularised in such a way and even with the use of the word in a separate context I'd say that as a result there will be a continued demand for the SPAM (TM) foodstuff as produced by Hornel, not many companies will be so lucky and in my opinion the attempted Trademark assertion over various software companies was pure folly.

Back to the topic.

When I read this story the only thought I could muster was WTF? Just WTF?

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Anonymous Coward

Shot narrowly misses foot...

And following your logic the name that Apple should be trademarking is "Appsto" not "App Store".

Shot narrowly misses foot...

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Boffin

@elreg!comments!Pierre

And following your logic the name that Apple should be trademarking is "Appsto" not "App Store".

Shot narrowly misses foot...

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Alert

*sigh*

DISCLAIMER DISCLAIMER DISCLAIMER DISCLAIMER DISCLAIMER

THIS POST DOES NOT IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM EXPRESSLY IMPLIED OR OTHERWISE IN ANY SORT OF FASHION WHATSOEVER THAT MAY OR MAY NOT BE CURRENTLY INTERPRETED BY THE READER OR READERS AGREE SUPPORT DEFEND OR OTHERWISE APPROVE OF THE ACTIONS ACTIVITIES STATEMENTS POSITIONS OR LEGAL ACTIONS OF APPLE COMPUTER INC OR ITS SUBSIDIARIES OR DESIGNATED AGENTS

I'm not saying I agree with the reasoning. I'm explaining it. Get the picture?

DISCLAIMER DISCLAIMER DISCLAIMER DISCLAIMER DISCLAIMER

THIS POST DOES NOT IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM EXPRESSLY IMPLIED OR OTHERWISE IN ANY SORT OF FASHION WHATSOEVER THAT MAY OR MAY NOT BE CURRENTLY INTERPRETED BY THE READER OR READERS AGREE SUPPORT DEFEND OR OTHERWISE APPROVE OF THE ACTIONS ACTIVITIES STATEMENTS POSITIONS OR LEGAL ACTIONS OF APPLE COMPUTER INC OR ITS SUBSIDIARIES OR DESIGNATED AGENTS

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Anonymous Coward

Duh

It took a while to figure what the big fuss was all about. APP is short for Apple. I guess the babes at Google would get sued if they called themselves Goo Goo Dolls.

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WTF?

Lawyers should be executed on sight

"Apple denies that, based on their common meaning, the words 'app store' together denote a store for apps"

Is that intended to be a factual statement? How can these people live with themselves? What did they smoke??

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Who cares?

Certainly not the lawyers - they can continue to obtain insanely large legal fees from their clients while the argue that the sky is purple, the sea is mauve, the pope has muslim tendencies and bears do not, in fact, defecate in arboreal settings.

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Pity the lawyers

The lawyers do their best for the clients, even if it is madness. Therein is the difference. They didn't start it, and are part of the system, like soldiers, etc. I won't downvote you for the title, though. After reading some of the learned posts on here, I can see the fun + money in the whole thing

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Anonymous Coward

Except that lawyers made the system

There's the difference.

The law was originally made by 'normal people' (where normal was defined as 'have big armies'), and it was then hijacked by specialists who have continued to make it more and more complex in an apparent attempt to ensure that the law can only be understood by those specific specialists.

Lawyers are only needed because lawyers have made the law too complex for anybody else to understand, mostly written in incomprehensible language.

Soldiers didn't do either of those things.

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Vic
Silver badge

Never pity the lawyers

> The lawyers do their best for the clients, even if it is madness

And therein lies the problem.

The lawyers are Officers of the Court. Their first duty is to the law, their second to their clients.

If they are spouting total bollocks, they are deficient in that duty, and risk sanctions. Sadly, such sanctions rarely materialise.

Both the US and the UK legal systems rely entirely on the lawyers not being total lying wankers. And there is a reason why courts sometimes go awry...

Vic.

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FAIL

@ratfox

No, it's not meant as a factual statement as such. It is a statement of Apple's denial of an allegation from Amazon's pleadings. If Apple didn't deny that allegation explicitly it would be deemed to be accepted, and Apple's lawyers would be verging on negligent. This quote is taken from a legal document and meant to be read in conjunction with the other documents filed at court as part of that case. It's not meant to be used as a sound bite.

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Silver badge

Let them have the trademark...

...on the condition that an App Store is so obviously NOT a store selling apps (gee, who could make a mistake like that?), therefore Apple are forbidden to create a store, sell apps on it, and refer to it as an App Store...

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Anonymous Coward

So a 'drugstore" sells drugs according to this logic??

When will people realise that a name only means something when people generally accept it as a set term. Windows simply means windows and if MS want to put windows on screen then they are windows - they have no monopoly on windows. Windows as an OS is simply a term meaning the OS based on windows (hence their failure to understand the 'desktop' metaphor!) - it can only be 'owned' in that context, so MS can't sue me for painting MY windows.

A real term needs at least two words to narrow down its possible meanings: but a drugstore only becomes what it is by people accepting the "usual" meaning of the term and not a place to buy drugs. Equally I don't expect to get my computer hardware from a "hardware store".

The term produced by putting the word "app" next to "store" was introduced by Apple, and most Apple users accepted it as a term for the App Store. If others want to come along and use it like MS did with the word "windows", then they would have to have produced something novel that is accepted as such before Apple coined the term and applied to copyright it.

Generic words can always acquire specific meanings in a given context and there is no problem in their being copyrighted for that context alone. We can talk freely about app stores if we like, but Apple have every right to talk about THE App Store for a specific form of acquiring apps and copyrighting the term for that function.

To mix this issue up with the ridiculous patent trolling situation that the US has plunged itself into is just a "red herring" (my apologies to any specific red herrings reading this who are not the usual silvery edible kind and dislike being mistaken for misguided arguments).

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Pint

hardware store....

quite right, i wouldn't expect to get computer stuff from a hardware store.

I would expect to get it from a computer store though.

hardware is an extremely overloaded word, too generic.

App on the other hand, isn't.

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Headmaster

@So a 'drugstore" sells drugs according to this logic??

Correct.

At least if you still apply the old meaning of the word.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drug#Etymology

And yes, they have expanded beyond the traditional business.

On the other hand you also get "apps" from an "app store" to buy books etc..

Evolution seems to be faster in IT.

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J 3
Coat

@So a 'drugstore" sells drugs according to this logic??

Er... yes. Isn't that their primary purpose? Don't the ones where you live sell drugs? I know nowadays the look more like over-sized convenience stores, and you have to dig to find the pharmacy area, but they still sell drugs somewhere in there. It's the (depending on context) legal ones, of course, but still drugs. Ask your friendly neighborhood druggist.

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Stop

sorry

you have shot down your own argument, this is about a trademark, if a trademark become generic you lose it. Just because they used App Store first (debatable..) doesn't mean that the trademark is valid.

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WTF?

Well...yes.

"So a 'drugstore" sells drugs according to this logic??"

Um, yes. Drug stores sell drugs. This is why we call them drug stores (those of us in North America, anyway; those in the UK would call them 'pharmacies', but never mind), and why we go there to buy drugs and fill prescriptions for drugs. I'm not quite sure what you're arguing here. Are you making the common mistake of equating the term 'drugs' with 'illegal drugs'? Aspirin's a drug, antihistamines are drugs, Viagra's a drug, all those pills you get at drug stores are indeed drugs. And indeed no-one could get a trademark on the term 'drug store' as it is a generic term for a store which sells drugs.

"Generic words can always acquire specific meanings in a given context and there is no problem in their being copyrighted for that context alone."

Indeed, but in this case the context has to be different from the generic meaning. 'Windows' is actually an excellent case in point: Microsoft only has a trademark on Windows as the term is used to describe a computer interface. It doesn't have a trademark on the generic meaning of 'windows' as 'holes in walls that you can see through', and if it had applied for one, it wouldn't have got it, because you can't trademark the commonly-accepted meaning of a pre-existing word. One company that sells windows can't apply for a trademark on the word 'windows' and preclude its competitors from calling their products 'windows'. The Microsoft patent on 'windows' relies on the term 'windows' not having been used as a generic term for an operating system / computer interface before Microsoft applied for their trademark.

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Flame

Yes. Drugstores Sell Drugs.

1) drugstore.com

2) look at the title of your browser and read the words: Prescription Drugs

3) learn the meaning of the words you are using

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Silver badge

Re: So a 'drugstore" sells drugs according to this logic??

And by what logic would a drugstore be expected to sell fish?

"A real term needs at least two words to narrow down its possible meanings:"

And with that shot to the foot, I'm guessing you would have never given the mark "Applestore" to Apple. Frankly I concur it should have never been given, but as one word it is more distinguishable and less generic; that said I would expect Granny Smith and Braeburn to be prominent products instead of all Macintosh all the time; certainly the Burchinal Red Delicious would never make an appearance. Perhaps it should have been macintosh-store or macstore (not to be confused with maxtor) would have been better.

Hmm... App Monger... Back off! that TM is mine!

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Headmaster

drugstore

Here in the UK our high streets are polluted by a chain store called "Superdrug", which sells no drugs at all [1]. Shampoo and cosmetics, yes. pain relief or prescription drugs, no.

Since we have grown used to the mendacious ways of marketing people, no-one much cared.

[1] I believe some free-lance use of the doorways in the evening may restore grammatical accuracy. Allegedly.

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Anonymous Coward

SuperDrug

I am fairly sure that Superdrug sells antihistamines and analgesic drugs. I bought both from Superdrug this weekend.

Just because they are over the counter doesnt mean they arent drugs.

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Gold badge

@Hardcastle

Actually whenever I make it back to the UK, I go to Superdrug to bulk-buy Paracetamol & Ibuprofen (which are bloody expensive here), and also things like Anbesol, Lemsip and other things that are not available here...

Oh, they are all DRUGS by the way.

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Troll

And also ...

... Apple introduced the term produced by putting the word "app" next to "le", and most Apple users accepted it as a term for the company!

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Coat

Re: SuperDrug

The do indeed.

I'm still waiting for Boots to sell wellies though......

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@AC 08:22

I bet you live in somewhere super-sophisticated, Like London or Brighton.

Up here in Lincolnshire superdrug sells shampoo and emery boards and that's about it.

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Grenade

British english please

Over here we have shop's, Store is what squirrels do with acorns.

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Headmaster

I'm on tenterhooks . . .

. . . waiting to find out what thing belonging to a shop you have!

See, over *here*, an apostrophe followed by an "s" indicates possession (or a contraction, but I'm going to assume, perhaps foolishly, you weren't trying to say "we have shop is").

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Anonymous Coward

"...Store is what squirrels do with acorns."

And we all know Steve Jobs has HUGE Acorns.

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@Tom

It may be that Robin is a grocer. You need to show some cultural sensitivity here.

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Headmaster

to be fair

@Tom Maddox

Whilst I am on your side in this, the greengrocer's apostrophe is becoming so commonplace now that I expect some trendy dictionary compiler to declare it 'correct'.

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Troll

How can it be "commonplace" if there's only one grocer it belongs to?

Surely you are referring to greengrocers' apostrophes?

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Boffin

Speaking of Acorns

IIRC Acorn were the first to make regular commercial use of the "App" contraction, with RISC OS's bundled "Apps" directory.

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Coat

Shop(s)

Yeah, I mean, you can just pop down to the Supershop cant you?

Also, its not as if PC World, Homebase, Argos, Boots etc have a "store finder" function on their websites either.

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Joke

Grocers

I have questions about that; were grocers banned from going to school?

Were they the only ones allowed to put in superfluous apostrophes?

Is it becoming more prevalent because of the large numbers not going to school, or going there and not learning?

Next your be tell me I dont speek proper neither.

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Anonymous Coward

Take care Bath Store

Amazon's coming for you next!

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Terminator

And "Body Shop"???

Never pass a graveyard again....

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