Apparently, there's many app stores -- but only one App Store. That's essentially Apple's claim in its trademark suit against Amazon accusing the online retailer of using its "App Store" trademark to sell mobile applications. Amazon today unveiled its own mobile storefront dubbed "Amazon Appstore for Android," launching with 3,800 titles optimized for Android smartphones.
According to reports, Apple is asking a California federal judge to block Amazon from using the "App Store" name and is seeking unspecified damages alleging trademark infringement and unfair competition. "We've asked Amazon not to copy the App Store name because it will confuse and mislead customers," an Apple spokesperson told Bloomberg. Really?
Obviously, both companies are now in the mobile app business. But the term "app store" is commonly used to refer to the app storefront of any company operating one, as in the "GetJar app store" or the "BlackBerry app store." Other companies may have specific branded names for their app stores, like Android Market or BlackBerry App World, but the generic term for this category of retailing is "app store."
So the chance consumers will confuse Amazon's new store with Apple's App Store seems unlikely. For one thing, Amazon looks like it's taken steps to insulate itself against an Apple claim by spelling "Appstore" in its name as one word and couching it within the broader "Amazon Appstore for Android" brand. (Oh, the alliteration.) Besides that, people will typically refer to it just as Amazon's app store to differentiate from Apple's storefront or any other companies.
So "app store" is already being used widely as a generic term and there doesn't seem to be a huge problem with confusion because it's used in context to refer to a specific app store. To the extent anyone refers only to "the App Store" they'd be understood to be talking about Apple's App Store because it's the biggest and most well-established mobile storefront. Because Amazon is just getting into the business and is focused on Android apps, no one is likely to confuse its "Appstore" with Apple's.
Amazon obviously has the resources to fight this trademark battle out with Apple. To avoid what could be expensive, years-long litigation, Apple should drop the suit and save both companies time and money that could be better spent developing new products and services. But Apple isn't known for walking away from a legal fight, so don't expect the dispute to be resolved anytime soon.