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Apple's Amazon 'Appstore' Lawsuit Loses Some of Its Bite

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on January 03, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Apple's lawsuit against Amazon is still ongoing but at least one claim, relating to Amazon's Appstore, has been resolved.

That doesn't mean the case is over. Back in 2011, Apple filed suit against Amazon for trademark infringement, false advertising, dilution, and unfair competition. Only the false advertising issue has been resolved.

U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton dismissed Apple's complaint as it related to false advertising. Her Jan. 2 decision also suggests that Apple's other claims may not succeed.

In the ruling, Judge Hamilton states that Amazon's choice to call its space for selling mobile device apps the "Appstore" is not a statement about the qualities or characteristics of Amazon's store, reports Techcrunch.

As a result, the name cannot be a false statement about those qualities either.

That kind of language also betrays Judge Hamilton's feelings about the trademark on the term "app store." The ruling leaves little room to conclude that Amazon's name infringes on Apple's customer base or reputation.

Hamilton's ruling goes on to say that Apple has no proof that consumers would confuse the Amazon Appstore with the Apple App Store. She saw no reason anyone would expect Amazon to sell apps for Apple devices, according to Wired.

For its part, Amazon is claiming that the phrase "app store" is generic and that Apple cannot have exclusive rights to it. Given current technology, that seems to be a good argument.

While "app" is the first syllable in Apple, the word actually refers to applications. Apps are the term for any downloadable content for a mobile device, regardless of platform.

That certainly makes Apple's claim more difficult to prove, although the company has been using the term "App Store" to refer to its online marketplace since 2008.

Making the case even more difficult, Amazon has offered some proof that even Apple execs don't appear to think they own the phrase. Court filings indicate that Steve Jobs and current Apple CEO Tim Cook have both referred to competitors' online markets as "app stores."

The court gave partial summary judgment to Amazon on this issue, but the rest of the claims are still undecided. Apple and Amazon are scheduled to go to trial in August.

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