Microsoft fights Apple on ‘App Store’ name

Microsoft is disputing Apple’s move to trademark the name “App Store”, arguing that it would be unfair to allow just one company to use a phrase that is now used by lots of technology groups.

Apple applied to have the term trademarked in 2008, shortly after it launched its App Store for the iPhone. However, in a motion filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office this week, Microsoft points out that the term “app store” is used as a generic term by lots of companies to describe the online retail outlet used to sell mobile phone applications to consumers.

Microsoft has been rapidly overtaken in recent years by Apple’s smartphone operating system and there is a huge number of app developers making money through its App Store.

In its filing, Microsoft said companies including itself, Palm, Nokia, Research in Motion, Samsung and Google – which developed the Android open source operating system that runs on a range of smartphone devices – regularly use the description.

The filing goes on to point out that the term was even used in a generic fashion by Steve Jobs, chief executive of Apple, in a recent interview.

Russell Pangborn, a legal adviser for trademarks at Microsoft, said an “app store” was an “app store”. Like “shoe store” or “toy store,” it was a generic term that was commonly used by companies, governments and individuals that offered apps.

The term “app store” should continue to be available for use by all without fear of reprisal by Apple, he said.

Apple declined to comment.

The launch of the iPhone by Apple and its accompanying App Store has triggered a jump in demand for high-end smartphones. Nokia, the world’s largest handset maker, has seen its lead eroded by Apple’s iPhones and the range of handsets running on the Android platform.

Apple boasts the biggest library of apps, with more than a quarter of million. Analysts believe that having a large apps library has been critical to the rapid take-up of Apple’s iPhones, helping it to not only attract but retain customers.

Microsoft, which has dominated the desktop computer arena, has made it clear that it wants to improve its mobile offering.

Speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, Microsoft announced that the next version of its Windows operating system would run on chips based on designs from UK-based Arm Holdings. The lower-powered chips should help Microsoft widen Windows beyond personal computers to portable devices such as tablets.

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