Isn't It Ironic, Microsoft?

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Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) has an app store for Windows Mobile 7. Mr. Softy wants to call it an app store, but Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) has a pending trademark on that term. So Microsoft is asking the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to deny Apple's application, because "app store" is a generic term and anybody should be able to use it.

In fact, Steve Jobs himself has been caught using "app store" in a generic sense. (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) , Vodafone (NYSE: VOD  ) , and Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) have all created independent application repositories for the Android platform (though public launch is not the same as developing a store), and The Steve called them "app stores" in the last earnings call. Microsoft pounces on this fact, claiming it as evidence that "app store" is a generic term that belongs in the public domain.

All of this may be true, but it only makes Microsoft look hypocritical. Claiming genericness is convenient when the trademark claim belongs to someone else, but has everybody forgotten that this is the company that trademarked the term "Windows"? I suppose Jobs could point out the last time Steve Ballmer let a little sunshine into his living room and declare the Windows trademark unsupportable.

The solution to Microsoft's problem seems obvious: Come up with a snappy new name for your app store and let users refer to it any way they like. Android users may talk about their app stores, but the official Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) store bears the moniker "Android Market." No toes were trampled on in the making of this name. Amazon calls its solution the "Amazon Appstore," which may or may not ruffle feathers in Cupertino.

Microsoft's lawyers have enough work already. Ballmer should call his attack dogs off and save some legal fees. There's no point to this complaint.

The comments box is wide open for your view on the app store situation. The Fool might trademark "comments box" if this nonsense continues.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Google, Microsoft, and Vodafone Group are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Apple and are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. The Fool has written puts on Apple. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.

Read/Post Comments (5) | Recommend This Article (3)

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  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2011, at 9:09 PM, postguru wrote:

    Sorry, Microsoft. You "forced" Apple to do this long ago. Apple actually coined the term "Plug and Play" during the 80s with the Macintosh - it was the first computer that was actually "Plug-and-Play. Apple added the ability for the Mac operating system to be able to "query" a device for all of its specifications, etc., and then encouraged device manufacturers to "use" this capability in their hardware to make their hardware self-configuring. So in the 80s, when you installed a new piece of hardware, the Mac could automatically recognize and configure itself for the device. Apple called this feature "Plug and Play". Apple was NOT overzealous regarding trademarks at the time, and allowed anyone to use the term "Plug and Play" for this type of feature.

    Fast forward about 7 or 8 years. Microsoft finally implemented this capability in Windows 95, and promptly went ahead and trademarked the term "Plug-and-Play". So if you picked up a computer magazine and read a computer comparison chart after Windows 95 was released, along with columns such as "32 bit", Max RAM, etc., there would be a column called "Plug-and-Play". The Windows PCs in the list would have "Yes" listed in the "Plug-and-Play" column, yet all Mac computers would have "No" listed in the "Plug-and-Play" column because they obviously would not support Microsoft's "Plug-and-Play" feature.

    So Apple was effectively banned from even saying their computers were "Plug-and-Play" compatible when they had in fact invented the feature.

    I don't blame them one bit - but I personally think that this whole "Trademark" thing has gotten way out of hand. I also pray that the writer is wrong about the "Windows" trademark, I sincerely hope that the trademark is for "Microsoft Windows". If the US Patent Office did allow Microsoft to trademark such a generic word as "Windows", then the US Patent Office is just as much to blame for this ridiculous situation as are the companies that have become "trademark obsessed".

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2011, at 11:36 PM, techy46 wrote:

    Come on boys and girls, what's wrong with Apple App Store and Microsoft App Store. App(s) has been used in software jargon for as long as I can remember; 34+ years. As for Plug-n-Play that's stupid too. Has anyone trademarked myPhone or rPhone?

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2011, at 2:04 AM, mauikid wrote:

    So before you write the article do some research so you sound credible about what the actual names of technologies and products are. The reader might think you know some thing then. Microsoft's new mobile operating system is a completely redesigned operating system, and its called Windows Phone 7...not the venerable Windows Mobile. Also Microsoft has already named its "app store". It's called MarketPlace.

    Seriously if you don't know what Microsoft's offerings are stop bashing them until you do some research. You sound a bit like a fan boy.

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2011, at 9:52 AM, gatorone1000 wrote:


    The reason Microsoft is so maligned has less to do with the specifics of each nit-picky little incident like this that comes up and more to do with the fact that the company has engaged in unfair and illegal business practices since its very inception.

    Their earliest business tactic was to steal a technology and squeeze the competition out unfairly or illegally, usually the latter, and by the time the case went to court it didn't matter what the size of the fine was - the competitor was out of business ans MS could easily afford whatever fine was levied.

    This is why those in the tech/business world don't hesitate to poke them in the eye. When you step on every finger on your way up the ladder, no one sheds a tear when karma catches up.

    Take a look at the current set of DOJ suits against MS - while your at it, why don't you research the history of cases against them?

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2011, at 9:54 PM, baldheadeddork wrote:

    Gaterone - that's not a current case. US v. Microsoft was decided in 2002 and the final ruling came down in 2006.

    There are no current DOJ suits against Microsoft.

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