Apple lawsuit against Amazon for using “Appstore” hits a semi-brick wall

Last year Amazon revealed their Amazon Appstore for Android. Apple, who introduced the now-extremely-popular Apple App Store in 2008, didn’t (doesn’t) like Amazon using “Appstore” in the name of their… app store… so Apple did what it does second-best: sue.

Last year Apple brought two separate lawsuits against Amazon. The first suit claimed Amazon’s “Appstore” violated Apple’s “App Store” trademark while the second suit is against Amazon for running “misleading” ads using the “Appstore” name. Previously US District Judge Phyllis Hamilton denied Apple a preliminary injunction against Amazon Appstore and, today, Hamilton further showed her skepticism with Apple’s claims.

While the trademark violation claim is already set to be put before a jury in 2013, a hearing was held today before Hamilton in regards to the misleading ads claim. Amazon, of course, wants the misleading ad claim to be thrown out with Amazon’s lawyer proclaiming:

No accused ads were put forth. Today, I’m given a piece of paper that’s not an ad for any app store. It’s an ad for smartphones, and it’s not even in the record before Your Honor.

Apple’s lawyer, however, argued:

They [Amazon employees] admit they targeted Apple customers, because Apple set the benchmark for what consumers expected. When you combine that with our evidence consumers associate the term ‘app store’ with Apple it’s enough evidence to warrant a trial.

Hamilton, the judge, responded with skepticism to Apple’s claim:

Everyone who uses a smartphone knows the difference between the Apple iOS system and the Android system. Where’s the confusion? There’s some suggestion [by Apple] that if Amazon is using the ‘Appstore’ term someone might think they have as many apps as Apple does. Well, why? And how, in fact, does that contribute to any deception on the part of Amazon?

As a rebuttal to Hamilton’s rebuke, Apple’s lawyer showed the judge a ads for smartphones on Amazon Wireless. For ads for Android smartphones, Amazon listed the fact that Android apps could be had from Amazon Appstore; for iPhones Amazon said apps could be downloaded from Apple App Store. This, according to Apple, “deceives” customers:

Consumers will see this kind of advertising and import their associations with Apple service. They understand what the App Store by Apple entails—hundreds of thousands of apps, and an ease of service unmatched by any others. When a consumer sees something like this they will be deceived into thinking the Amazon store has the same types of qualities.

To this Hamilton responded with more skepticism:

I don’t see it. I don’t look at this and make that determination. I just don’t understand the whole idea that people would misunderstand and blend these two different products and services.

Continuing on, Apple’s lawyer presented Hamilton with a study that claimed people associated “App Store” with Apple. Hamilton responded that the study doesn’t show that people were deceived by Amazon’s “Appstore” to which Apple’s lawyer responded “that is a different survey, and I don’t believe one that was required”.

Of course this doesn’t mean that Apple’s misleading ads claim against Amazon is going to be thrown out. It may, eventually, find its way to a jury at which point no one really knows what will happen. Still, it is refreshing to see a judge with common sense: not even Apple can patent the English language.

[via ArsTechnica, image via robertnelson]

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