Apple’s attempt to trademark the phrase “App Store” has hit an apparent obstacle, in the form of a statement by Steve Jobs last year referring to Android “app stores.”
In an earnings call with investors and the press last October, the Apple CEO downplayed progress made by Google’s Android smartphone operating system, claiming that Android’s open system would face challenges due to consumer confusion between Android app stores (a list that now includes Amazon’s own Appstore for Android).
In that call, Jobs said, “In addition to Google’s own app marketplace, Amazon, Verizon and Vodafone have all announced that they are creating their own app stores for Android. 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.”
Apple claims in its trademark suit against Amazon that “App Store” refers only to iTunes, but as Amazon points out, Jobs’ own statement supports the idea that “app store” is generic.
Trademark attorney Douglas Isenberg told Evolver.fm that this case comes down to the question of whether “app” is a generic word for software installed by a user and run on a smartphone. To be fair, Apple more or less invented the app as we know it today, but from where we’re sitting, “app” is nonetheless clearly generic. For example, Evolver.fm covers music “apps” for several platforms (Android, Android tablet, HTML5, iPad, iPhone, Mac, Windows Phone 7, and others).
“We don’t track anyone,” Jobs reportedly wrote. “The info circulating around is false.”
Maybe Apple can employ similar logic to erase Jobs’ generic use of the phrase “app stores” from the public record too, although it’s hard to see how.