On January 2nd, Amazon claimed a small victory in its battle with Apple. An Oakland, California judge sided with Amazon when she rejected Apple’s claim that Amazon’s Appstore was committing false advertising.
U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton while there are similarities in the names of the digital application storefronts, Apple has not proved that Amazon has in fact tried to pass itself off as an official Apple app store.
In her order to dismiss the claim, Hamilton wrote, “There is no evidence that a consumer who accesses the Amazon Appstore would expect that it would be identical to the Apple App Store, particularly given that the Apple App Store sells apps solely for Apple devices, while the Amazon Appstore sells apps solely for Android and Kindle devices. Further, the integration of Apple devices has more to do with Apple’s technology than it does with the nature, characteristics, or qualities of the App Store.”
She also stated that Apple specifically sells apps for their own products like the iPhone and iPad, whereas Amazon’s store sells apps that are solely for devices that use Google’s Android systems like the Kindle. There is no way to confuse purchasing Apple apps on Amazon’s store and vice versa.
The court order document states that: “the court find 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.” It also goes on to state that. “Apple has failed to establish that Amazon made any false statement of fact that actually deceived or had the tendency to deceive a substantial segment of its audience.”
Amazon first announced their plans to delve into the mobile application world in September 2010 when they announced an upcoming developer program, and an anticipated storefront to be named the “Appstore.” They store was set to sell Android applications outside of Google’s own Android Play Store.
Besides covering Android systems, Amazon had hinted that they had plans to expand into other operating systems, although they were not likely to include Apple’s iOS system.
The case between Apple and Amazon started in March 2011 when Apple sued Amazon on the grounds that Amazon has infringed on its trademark. According to the official claim that was filed with the United States District Court Northern District of California, Apple stated that:
Recently, Apple has begun improperly using Apple’s App Store mark in connection with Amazon’s mobile software developer program. Amazon has also taken actions which, on information and belief, evidence Amazon’s intent to improperly use Apple’s mark in connection with Apple’s mark in connection with Amazon’s mobile software download service. Amazon’s present and intended uses are unauthorized and unlawful.
The complaint was later amended by Apple to include claims that Amazon was falsely advertising its store, stating that Amazon specifically changed its Appstore name to distance itself from Google’s Android in its Kindle ads. Amazon retaliated by claiming that they “appstore” term is generic and not an offset of Apple’s App Store.
The court order for the ruling on Wednesday further explains why Apple is waging this war against Amazon. The official document states:
Since July 2008, Apple has sold applications for its mobile devices through its App Store service. On July 17, 2008, Apple applied to register the App Store mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. …Meanwhile, in September 2010, Amazon began soliciting software developers to participate in a future mobile software download service offered by Amazon…. ON three occasions, in January, February, and March 2011, Apple communicated with Amazon and demanded that Amazon cease its use of the App Store mark. On March 22, 2011, Amazon launched the Amazon Appstore for Android
Apple seeks to stop Amazon from using the “appstore” phrase on its website and marketing materials altogether. Apple is also seeking damages from the online commerce giant.
Kristin Huguet, a spokesperson for Apple, said the lawsuit was filed in order to keep consumers from getting confused. Huguet said, “We’ve asked Amazon not to copy the app store name, because it will confuse and mislead customers.”
This lawsuit between Apple and Amazon is the latest in a string of lawsuits from Apple to preserve the rights to use “App Store” and “Appstore.” Apple currently owns the rights to both terms in Europe, but not in the United States as of yet. In Europ, HTC, Microsoft, Nokia and Sony Ericsson have previously sought to invalidate Apple’s trademarks.
Although this victory for Amazon is a step in the right direction, at least for Amazon, the battle between Apple and Amazon is far from over. This complaint is just one piece of Apple’s large lawsuit against Amazon. Apple also Amazon of copyright infringement and is requesting a court order that will prevent Amazon from using the Appstore name. Amazon remains steadfast that the term appstore is a generic one which Apple does not have the exclusive rights to.
The two giants are set to go to trial in August 2013.