Microsoft, Apple Battle Over Use of 'App Store'

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft and Apple have headed to court over a war of words, or at least, technicalities of their use.

Microsoft has filed a petition requesting that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to deny Apple a trademark on the name "App Store." According to Microsoft, the term "App Store" is simply too generic to be the exclusive property of Apple.

Apple first applied for the trademark in 2008 when it launched the iTunes App Store for the iPhone. It wanted to cover the term for any form of software retailing provided through the Internet. (Source:

Microsoft: Neither "App" Nor "Store" Original

The Microsoft objection makes two main arguments. First it claims that the independent words themselves are too generic to be protected. It cites dictionaries showing that "app" has been in use as a shortened form of "application" for at least 25 years, and notes that referring to a retail facility as a "store" is also hardly original.

The second argument is that "app store" is a term widely used in the industry. It lists a wide range of online sites using "app store" for their own services, as well as a host of news articles that refer to "app stores" run by other companies in the smartphone field.

Steve Jobs Attacked With Own Words

There's also a very personal argument: the filing notes that in a conference call last October, Apple chief Steve Jobs twice referred to "app stores" being available for Android handsets. (Source:

That isn't to say Microsoft has a slam-dunk case, however. It's notable that none of the examples Microsoft gives of other companies using the phrase pre-dates Apple's original application. And the filing notes that none of Apple's major smartphone rivals uses the term: while Microsoft argues this shows firms are unfairly being restricted from using the phrase, patent officials may interpret this as a sign that the industry recognizes Apple has a claim to the phrase.

The App Store Concept

The concept of an app store, in the sense of a central resource to automatically download and install software that has been vetted by a device manufacturer, has been credited with making the iPhone a major success, taking it beyond simply having the initial gimmick of combining a cellphone with an iPod Touch.

The legal dispute comes as such facilities move beyond the smartphone era. Google now offers a "web store" for its Chrome browser, offering a range of applications that run within the browser itself, while Apple has recently launched an app store for downloading software to Mac computers.

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