Apple has several trademark battles currently (see Samsung and iCloud issues for example). It is currently lodged in a tangled dispute with several others over its claimed rights to “APP STORE” as a protected trademark. The questions essentially boil down to: Is the phrase so common and generic that no one can claim rights to it, or was the phrase launched by Apple aas a brand name and associated by consumers predominantly with Apple?
In addition to a fight with Microsoft, who is challenging Apple’s attempts to register the phrase, and a fight with Amazon (see The Trademark Blog report here), who Apple took to court over use of the phrase, Apple now may have a growing consumer backlash related to the efforts.
Apple recently sent a “cease and desist letter” to Get Jar, a site that proclaims to be the larges application website. As I have written about previously, when sending a demand letter in today’s socially network world, attorneys and companies should consider the ramifications if the letter is made public and if an effort to mobile a backlash ensues.
Sure enough, Get Jar has blogged about the letter and has created groups on Facebook and Twitter to amass support for its cause. Get Jar has received a large amount of publicity as a result and in the end, Apple’s efforts could be affected by the public outcry. At a minimum, Apple has in the short term brought more attention to Get Jar’s use of the “app store” phrase and has potentially alienated customers.
Will the backlash grow large enough to force Apple to reconsider its strategy?
At a minimum, I think the strategy of publicizing the issue by the accused infringer will continue to grow and have an subtle practical – if not legal – affect on the practice of trademark law.
Facebook: The Open And Free App Movement – #OFAM