Apple's efforts to protect its intellectual property sometimes result in lawsuits that leave even the most ardent of Apple fans scratching their heads. One such suit was Apple's March 2011 lawsuit against Amazon over the retailer's use of the phrase "app store" as used in its Amazon Appstore for Android.
Now, seeing as Apple was concurrently trying to secure a trademark for the term "app store," it didn't come as much of a surprise when Apple tried to block Amazon from using the phrase itself. In the process, Apple alleged that Amazon was guilty of trademark infringement and false advertising.
Amazon, in response, sought to have the suit dismissed and today Bloomberg is reporting that Amazon successfully convinced U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton to toss out Apple's claim for false advertising.
"The court finds no support for the proposition that Amazon has expressly or impliedly communicated that its Appstore for Android possesses the characteristics and qualities that the public has come to expect from the Apple APP Store and/or Apple products," Hamilton explained.
Note, however, that the ruling only works to purge Apple's claim for false advertising. As such, the issue surrounding Amazon's alleged trademark infringement remains in play.
In previous court filings, Amazon has argued against Apple's allegations of trademark infringement by pointing out that Apple executives like Tim Cook and the late Steve Jobs would routinely use the phrase "app store" as a generic designation, thereby weakening Apple's claim of trademark ownership in the process.
In one of Apple's earnings conference calls from a few quarters back, Amazon noted how Jobs repeatedly made reference to "app stores" that existed outside of Apple's iTunes App Store.
"So there will be at least four app stores on Android, which customers must search among to find the app they want and developers will need to work with to distribute their apps and get paid. This is going to be a mess for both users and developers. Contrast this with Apple’s integrated App Store, which offers users the easiest-to-use largest app store in the world, preloaded on every iPhone."
Not surprisingly, Apple wants the case decided on an accelerated timetable to combat the inevitable rise of even more "app store" entities. The reason is rooted in trademark law which holds that the more entities that make use of a particular term, the more diluted the original trademark holders' rights to said term become. That said, reaching a decision on the merits as quickly as possible is in Apple's interest as opposed to waiting around for even more mobile stores hop on the "app store" bandwagon.
It will certainly be interesting to see how this case is decided trademark-wise. The false advertising allegation was always tenuous, but the trademark issue might go either way.