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Monday, March 21, 2011, 04:45 pm PT (07:45 pm ET)

Apple sues Amazon over use of 'App Store' trademark

Apple has sued rival Amazon, accusing the online retailer of violating its "App Store" trademark with the competing Amazon Appstore for Android.

The complaint was filed by Apple on March 18 in California, and accuses Amazon of trademark infringement and unfair competition. According to Bloomberg, the Cupertino, Calif., company has asked the court to prevent Amazon from using the "App Store" name.

Apple also seeks unspecified damages in the complaint, which takes aim at the Amazon Appstore for Android. Amazon's digital download destination for Android devices will compete with Google's own official Android Market.

"Amazon has begun improperly using Apple's App Store mark in connection with Amazon's mobile software developer program," Apple's complaint reads. It accuses Amazon of "unlawfully" using the App Store trademark to attract developers to its platform.

U.S. trademark law requires the owner of a trademark to vigorously defend its use. Failure to do so could result in the trademark becoming a generic description synonymous with a service, like a digital online storefront.

Apple says in the complaint that it contacted Amazon three times and requested they cease using the "Amazon Appstore" name, but the iPhone maker claims it did not receive a "substantive response." A spokeswoman for Apple told Bloomberg that Amazon's storefront name will "confuse and mislead customers.

Ownership of the App Store trademark was filed for by Apple shortly after the launch of the original iPhone App Store in July 2008. Since then, the App Store has also expanded to the iPad, and Apple launched the Mac App Store earlier this year.

Apple's rivals have objected to the App Store trademark, as Microsoft filed an objection to the application in January. The Redmond, Wash., software giant has argued that the trademark filing should be rejected because the term 'app store' is generic.

For its part, Apple countered in court by arguing that "App Store" is no more generic than "Windows," the name of Microsoft's ubiquitous operating system. Apple said that Microsoft's efforts to maintain its "Windows" trademark should have made it "well aware" that the term "App Store" is generally associated by the general public with Apple's products.