Apple v Amazon over the ‘App Store’

Last week news broke that Apple is taking legal action against Amazon over the latter’s forthcoming opening of its “Appstore for Android“.  Apple argued it constituted trade mark infringement of its well known iOS “App Store“.

I spoke with about what all this means – here’s the article reproduced below:

“Apple’s move to block Amazon’s use of the ‘Appstore’ name on the day before it launched was an aggressive move, even in the context of the ongoing battle between Apple and Microsoft over the App Store moniker.

On a legal basis, however, Apple isn’t looking for a quick win over its newfound rival.  The attempt to protect the ‘App Store’ name is the kind of tussle that has the potential to roll on for some time to come.
That’s the view of Olswang LLP lawyer Jas Purewal who told he thinks the case could become a complex legal battle.

Take the stand

“This lawsuit is really about the application of trade mark law to the fast changing world of mobile purchases,” Purewall, who is also the writer behind games law blog Gamer/Law, says.

“Briefly, a trade mark is a sign – like a logo or brand name – which a business uses so that its customers can recognise its goods and services and distinguish them from the goods and services of a competitor.

“Trademarks can generate significant brand value and, therefore, protecting them is important. In this case, Apple is suing Amazon on the basis that Amazon’s Appstore will ‘confuse and mislead customers’ – for example, that customers may buy an app from the Amazon App Store thinking that it is in fact created, sponsored or approved by Apple.

“In effect, Apple wants to stop Amazon from benefiting from the value which Apple says it has built up in that phrase via its iOS App Store.”
Problem precedent

Apple’s case against Amazon, however, is complicated by its ongoing efforts to register its App Store trademark with the USPTO.

“There are potential difficulties for Apple in pursuing this case,” explains Purewal.

“Firstly, Apple does not itself yet have a fully registered trade mark over ‘App Store’ – in fact, Apple’s trade mark application is reportedly being contested by Microsoft on the basis that it is too generic to be protectable – which has the potential to turn this into a three-way battle between Microsoft, Apple and Amazon.

“This is by no means fatal to Apple’s case against Amazon, but it may complicate it. Secondly, Amazon will no doubt argue that there is no likelihood of confusion between the Amazon Appstore and the Apple App Store because they will presumably run on completely different devices.

“Further details of the lawsuit are not clear at the moment, but it is possible that Apple may seek a temporary ban on Amazon rolling out its Appstore until a full trial of the lawsuit – though Amazon would no doubt contest this.

“If the case does reach trial in due course, the court will then need to decide upon the relative merits of Apple’s and Amazon’s cases and rule whether or not Amazon may proceed with its Appstore plans.”

You can read more about trade marks and games here: demystifying trademarks and games.

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