Would an app store by any other name smell as sweet or, in this case, download digital wares to your mobile device of choice just as well? According to Microsoft, the answer to that question is apparently "no."
In fact, Microsoft are in the midst of trying to persuade the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office not to allow Apple trademark the name “App Store.” Microsoft’s feeling is that the phrase is a basic and generic one, and therefore should be available for use by other companies.
There are two clear sides to this debate, and really, both of them seem fairly reasonable. The officials in charge of deciding the fate of this battle will have a lot to consider.
On one hand, Apple was there first. They are the company that really propelled the digital marketplace into the mobile space with the iPhone’s App Store. In doing so, they are also the party responsible for imprinting the term “app store” firmly into the cultural lexicon to begin with, through the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Every other major smartphone player has been quick to copy the blueprint drawn up by Steve Jobs and his crew; shouldn’t they at least have to come up with their own names?
The other side of the coin has Microsoft taking the obvious approach of breaking down just how broad and general the term really is:
"'App store' is a generic name that Apple should not be permitted to usurp for its exclusive use. Competitors should be free to use 'app store' to identify their own stores and the services offered in conjunction with those stores.”
This really just seems like marketing laziness on the part of Microsoft. It’s understandable that they feel they have an uphill battle to climb in terms of getting consumers to not automatically think of the term “app store” in conjunction with every digital app distribution service. As mentioned before, the phrase has been tattooed onto our collective brain. But if Microsoft really want to disconnect app stores in general from their subconscious link with Apple, then there really is no better way to do that than with original branding.
In a world where Pizza Hut, Pizza World and Pizza Palace can all peacefully co-exist, there’s no reason we can’t have The App Store, App Alley and Bill’s Mobile-Bit Bin. It’s hard to believe that a company that has had recent great successes in solidifying popular branding with products like Xbox and now Kinect would have that much trouble coming up with a unique name for their mobile marketplace. Hey…Microsoft’s Mobile Marketplace! I'd better go trademark that right now.
Quit poking at your phones and chime in, Ranters! Is Apple over-stepping its reach by trying to trademark a name that everyone should be able to use? Or is Microsoft just being a baby and trying to get all legal with a problem that some marketing creativity could easily fix?