Apple loses App Store trademark caseJudge backs online retailer Amazon

07 July 2011

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Apple has been dealt a blow in its bid for exclusive rights over the use of the 'App Store' term.

A court turned down its application for a preliminary injunction to stop online retailer Amazon from using the term.

In March this year, Apple sued Amazon for using the term. The computing giant alleged that use by both companies could "confuse and mislead customers".

Amazon rebutted the allegation, countering that the term had become generic.

The Apple iPhone App Store is a place you can download applications to use on your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. 

US district judge Phyllis Hamilton agreed, and the application for a preliminary injunction was denied on the grounds that customers would not be confused if both firms used the phrase.

She said the term is 'more descriptive rather than distinctive'. ‘Apple has not established likelihood of success as to the infringement claims. The court assumes without deciding that the 'App store' mark is protectable as a descriptive mark that has arguably acquired secondary meaning' she said.

‘The court does not agree with Amazon that the mark is purely generic, for the reasons argued by Apple, but also does not find that Apple has shown that the mark is suggestive, as there appears to be no need for a leap of imagination to understand what the term means.’

Apple’s application to register App Store as a trademark in the US was approved by the US Patent and Trade Office.

Microsoft opposed the registration, and the matter is being considered by a trademark trials and appeals board. A date for the hearing between Microsoft and Apple has been set for October.

Find out more about how to use the store and find the best apps in the Which? Mobile guide.

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