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Tuesday, January 11, 2011, 11:05 pm PT (02:05 am ET)

Microsoft objects to Apple's "App Store" trademark application

Microsoft has filed an objection to Apple's application for the "App Store" trademark, calling the term too generic to be fairly registered.

Apple filed for the trademark shortly after the launch of the iPhone App Store in July 2008, describing the App Store as "retail store services featuring computer software provided via the internet and other computer and electronic communication networks; Retail store services featuring computer software for use on handheld mobile digital electronic devices and other consumer electronics."

On Monday, Microsoft challenged Apple's application by filing a motion for a summary judgment that would deny Apple the trademark, PC World reports. According to the filing, the Redmond, Wash., software giant objects to the trademark on the "grounds that 'app store' is generic for retail store services featuring apps and unregistrable for ancillary services such as searching for and downloading apps from such stores."

The filing alleges that "undisputed facts" establish that 'app store' is generic for retail store services featuring apps: "'App' is a common generic name for the goods offered at Apple’s store, as shown in dictionary definitions and by widespread use by Apple and others," and "'Store' is generic for the 'retail store services' for which Apple seeks registration, and indeed, Apple refers to its 'App Store' as a store."

The motion goes on to cite a recent quote from Apple's own Steve Jobs as evidence of the term's use as a generic name. "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," the filing quotes Jobs as having said. "There will be at least four app stores on Android which customers must search through to find the app they want and developers will need to work to distribute their apps and get paid."

According to Microsoft, Apple has unfairly prevented other companies from referring to their application retail stores as app stores. "Microsoft would like the ability to use 'app store' to fairly describe its own retail store services for apps, but Apple asserts that such uses are infringements of its rights and it has sent demand letters to companies using 'App Store' in their names," the motion reads. "Apple’s demands have apparently caused some competitors to change their use to 'Application Store' or 'App Marketplace.'"

After years of losing smartphone market share to Apple's popular iPhone, Microsoft released a new mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7, along with Marketplace, its answer to Apple's App Store, last fall. At the end of December, it was revealed that the Windows Phone 7 platform had reached the 5,000 app milestone, well behind the more than 300,000 apps available for Apple's iOS.

Adding to the controversy over app store names, Apple recently opened a second app store, dubbed the Mac App Store. Developers, including Apple, have already seen early success with app downloads from the store.

The appstore.com domain was previously owned by Salesforce.com, but has since been transferred to Apple.

Apple is no stranger to trademark disagreements. In 2007, Cisco sued Apple over the iPhone trademark after negotiations between the two companies broke down. The dispute was quickly resolved, however, with both companies allowed to use the trademark.

Last year, Apple acquired the U.S. rights to the iPad trademark from Fujitsu in March, but was threatened with a lawsuit by Taiwanese manufacturer Proview in October. Apple had purchased the "global rights" to the trademark from the company in 2006, but Proview maintains that the Chinese rights were held by a separate subsidiary.

An online advertising company sued Apple last year, alleging that the iPhone maker infringes on its "iAds" trademark. Apple reportedly paid a "7-figure settlement" to resolve the complaint.