Apple sues Amazon over “App Store” trademark

Apple is suing for trademark infringement and unfair competition over its use of the term “App Store.” The complaint, filed in US District Court for the Northern California District on Friday, asks that Amazon be ordered to stop using “Appstore” to refer to its soon-to-be-launched Google Android Market clone.

“Amazon has begun improperly using Apple’s App Store mark in connection with Amazon’s mobile software developer program,” Apple wrote in its complaint. Amazon hinted at its intentions to launch its own service to sell apps for the Android platform, and in January of this year told developers to begin submitting apps for what it calls the Amazon Appstore for Android.

Apple since asked Amazon to stop calling its store an “Appstore” three times, according to the lawsuit. “We’ve asked Amazon not to copy the App Store name because it will confuse and mislead customers,” Apple spokesperson Kristin Huguet told Bloomberg News.

Apple filed for a trademark on the term App Store in 2008, and after an initial rejection and an appeal by Apple, it was approved in early 2010. Microsoft filed an objection in July 2010 on the grounds that the term was too generic, and later asked the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to issue a summary judgment denying Apple’s trademark application.

Apple fired back, noting that App Store is no more generic a term for a mobile app store than Windows is for a WIMP-based operating system. Microsoft then complained to the Appeal Board that Apple’s response was set in too small a typeface, requesting the court force Apple to resubmit its response to Microsoft’s objection. That dispute is still ongoing.

In the meantime, other companies have so far avoided Apple’s legal ire by using variations on the App Store theme, including HP’s webOS App Catalog, RIM’s BlackBerry App World, Google’s Android Market, and Microsoft’s own Marketplace.