Bloomberg reports that Apple is suing Amazon over its use of the name "App Store." In essence, Apple's App Store is a simple name describing exactly what it is: a store where you can buy applications. But now it has become a jealously-guarded trademark that the company will sue over with great inconsistency (why not sue Google for its Chrome Web App Store or Verizon for its VCast App Store or Nokie for its App Store?). So let's review a history of this immensely profitable software marketplace.
The term App Store is actually the brainchild of a former Apple intern Marc Benioff now CEO of Salesforce.com. He outlined his idea in 2006 as such:
"Customers will be able to use AppStore as a single source for trying, buying and deploying on-demand applications on the AppExchange," reads a Salesforce document from 2006. "AppStore will provide a complete package of commercial services and revenue-sharing programs for developers and partners, who will be able to use AppStore as a global distribution network to market, sell, invoice and deliver the applications they have built using the Apex programming language and platform and made available on the AppExchange."
Earlier this month, Benioff told ZDNet's Larry Dignan that he took his idea of an AppExchange to Steve Jobs who told him it "needed scale to become a real platform." Benioff said he was grateful to Jobs for giving him advice and ended up dropping the idea. Because he "idolizes" Jobs he willingly gave Apple the www.appstore.com URL. Boom, Apple had its money-making name.
But that's not the end of the App Store's turbulent history. In January, Microsoft filed a motion with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to bar Apple from holding exclusive rights of the term. Microsoft argued that "App" is a generic term used widely and there's no reason Apple should be able to claim ownership of it. To that Apple hit back saying "the vastly predominant usage of the expression ‘app store’ in trade press is as a reference to Apple’s extraordinarily well-known APP STORE mark and the services rendered by Apple thereunder.”
Either way, it will be interesting to see how far Apple goes to guard its trademark. Will it stop at Amazon's App Store or go for Nokia and Verizon too? Regardless, it's not likely that Apple's wealth depends on a distinct App Store brand recognition. Marshall Kirkpatrick of Read Write Web puts it best.
"Apple's being one of the very largest companies in the world and continuing to make products that millions of people love both seem likely to be more effective in protecting against brand dilution than trying to get other companies to stop calling other things App Stores now!"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.