App Store vs Appstore legal battle not going well for Apple, Cupertino still not ready to drop charges

November 1, 2012
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We know Apple’s legal team is no stranger to the pursuit of even the silliest sounding copyright infringement accusations, but the Cupertino lawyers and officials look set to breaking their own records in terms of frivolous claims.

The iPhone makers sued Amazon in March 2011 for the latter’s use of the term “app store”, which Apple claims to be a trademarked phrase. As expected, Amazon defended by saying that the term is generic and can’t be trademarked, and, as logical as that explanation sounded, the US lawsuit is yet to be settled.

However, a ruling seems imminent, and after an Oakland federal court hearing today, the decision looks like it could only go one way – in Amazon’s favor. US District Judge Phyllis Hamilton, who already declared herself unimpressed by Apple’s arguments a year ago, also denying a preliminary injunction at that time, shattered Cupertino’s hopes by pretty much trashing the case.

“Everyone who uses a smartphone knows the difference between the Apple iOS system and the Android system.” said Judge Hamilton, adding that “There’s some suggestion that if Amazon is using the ‘Appstore’ term someone might think they have as many apps as Apple does. Well, why? And how, in fact, does that contribute to any deception on the part of Amazon?”

This was in response to Apple’s claims that Amazon is not only illegally using a trademarked phrase, but also promoting the Appstore by ways of false advertising, affecting the image of the Cupertino-based tech giant. However, Judge Hamilton’s skepticism will certainly hurt Apple’s chances of winning either of the two separate cases – the trademark infringement and the false advertising.

Apple’s “evidence” backing the accusations can’t do much to change Judge Hamilton’s stance, being at the best circumstantial (not to say downright childish). David Eberhart, a lawyer for Tim Cook’s company, showed the court a page from Amazon’s store offering various smartphones.

The Android devices were said to have software available through the Amazon Appstore, while the iPhones, you guessed it, were listed as products compatible with Apple’s App Store. So, what’s wrong with that picture?

Well, according to Eberhart, “When a consumer sees something like this they will be deceived into thinking the Amazon store has the same types of qualities. The consumers understand what the App Store by Apple entails – hundreds of thousands of apps, and an ease of service unmatched by any others.”

Ridiculous, right? Fortunately, Judge Hamilton seems to agree, being blatant about not “seeing” what Apple wanted her to see. “I don’t look at this and make that determination. I just don’t understand the whole idea that people would misunderstand and blend these two different products and services.” said Hamilton.

Meanwhile, Apple is determined to go forward with the accusations, claiming that “A pioneering brand – the first successful brand in a new market – plays a unique role in educating consumers about the product category as a whole while simultaneously building consumer affiliation between the product and the pioneer.” Okay, but what does that have to do with anything? And what’s next, guys, trying to forbid grocery stores from selling fruit?

Do you also think Apple is being ridiculous with these claims? Or do they really have a case? And if they do, what words might they look to trademark next – apple, air, phone, pad, jobs…?

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