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Is Apple losing the battle over rights to use “App Store”?

Legal

Apple, book publishers sued for fixing ebook prices

The latest wrinkle in the ongoing battle over who can claim rights to “App Store” comes from independent mobile application download service GetJar, which says it will continue using the term.

Apple has been trying to gain exclusive rights to “App Store” for some time, with little success so far. After GetJar received a cease-and-desist letter from Apple asking it stop using the term “App Store,” the independent app service said it is refusing the request.

“Like Amazon and Microsoft, GetJar believes that the term ‘app store’ can be used by a variety of companies to market their app distribution services,” said Jason Koslofsky, an attorney with ArentFox LLP, Washington, DC.

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“Apple is probably evaluating whether to bring suit against GetJar because GetJar declined to stop using the term,” he said.

Multiple fronts
San Mateo, CA-based GetJar is basing its rights to the term on the fact that it began distributing free apps before Apple and has used the term in its marketing efforts since 2009 without any dispute.

This is just one of several fronts where Apple is working to maintain its ability to use the term “App Store” exclusively.

Apple, is also defending its effort to trademark the phrase "App Store" against a challenge from Microsoft, HTC, Sony Ericsson and Nokia. Additionally, Apple is embroiled in a suit with Amazon over its use of the term “Appstore.”

A judge in the Amazon case recently said that she is probably going to deny Apple’s motion to stop Amazon from using the term because Apple has not been able to demonstrate confusion among consumers.

This development coupled with GetJar’s decision to ignore the cease and desist letter from Apple suggests Apple may be losing the battle to maintain exclusive rights here. 

“I’m sure Apple anticipated that other companies would fight its efforts to maintain exclusive use of the term ‘app store,’ but Apple was probably hoping for better court results,” Mr. Koslofsky said.

“Other companies will probably look at the history of this issue so far and decide that they will continue to use the term ‘app store,’ unless the prospect of litigation with Apple is too daunting,” he said.

Big role for apps
Application marketplaces are integral to mobile, helping companies like Apple build out vibrant ecosystems for a smartphone.

Apple’s success with its iTunes App Store has been impressive and the company is looking to shore up its place in mobile applications.

Apple recently said that its App Store has surpassed 15 billion downloads. The number of downloads stood at 10 billion just six months earlier.

However, the broader app marketplace is growing as well, with more and more ways for consumers to discover and download apps becoming available. 

If Apple decides it does need to own the rights to “App Store” to differentiate itself in the market given its strong standing, it may decide to give up the campaign to gain rights to the term.

GetJar has more than 50 million mobile application downloads per month and supports more than 1,800 phones.

GetJar addressed the situation with Apple in a company blog.

“GetJar won’t be subject to this kind of bullying,” the blog said. “We’re not going to ‘Cease & Desist.’ We were here long before Steve & Co.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode, Assoc. Editor, Mobile Marketer

Associate Editor Chantal Tode covers advertising, messaging, legal/privacy and database/CRM. Reach her at chantal@mobilemarketer.com.

 
Related content: Legal/privacy, app store, Apple, GetJar, mobile applications, ArentFox, Jason Koslofsky, mobile marketing, mobile

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