Stores existed before Apple: Registrar of Trademarks

Stores existed before Apple: Registrar of Trademarks

Summary: Counsel for the Australian Registrar of Trademarks has argued that the concept of an 'app store' isn't something Apple invented.

TOPICS: Apple, Legal, Australia

While the term 'App Store' might have come to prominence after the release of the iPhone in 2008, the Australian Registrar of Trademarks has argued that Apple is not the first to come up with the notion of a store.

Apple took the registrar to court in March this year after the 'App Store' trademark's initial acceptance was revoked and after the company lost an appeal of the decision twice, firstly by the trademark examiner and then by the Australian Trade Marks Office.

After hearing from linguists on the history of the term, Justice David Yates today was told by Apple that in 2008 when Apple began using the App Store in conjunction with the launch of the iPhone, the term 'app' was coming to mean something that was associated with the product Apple was offering.

This afternoon counsel for the registrar, Julia Baird, told the court that Apple's app store was essentially a virtual catalogue or store for apps to be bought and delivered to customers. She said it was no different in concept to a traditional store.

"It is the same concept of shopping in the online environment that for hundreds of years customers have been able to do in bricks-and-mortar stores," she said.

Apple's use of the term 'App Store' in association with the success of the iPhone doesn't mean that 'App Store' itself becomes unique to Apple, Baird argued.

"The success of the iPhone 3G and its successors, it is what the applicant points to as its success of the use of the term 'App Store'. That does not equate to the success of the term other than what it describes which is a store where a customer can in a virtual world get for his or her own use, apps."

Baird said that the Oxford English Dictionary had settled on the colloquial definition of app being shorthand for a computer application back in 2000, a full eight years before Apple filed for the trademark.

"What you see is irrefutable evidence the OED's recording of app having a settled meaning for application software or computer program ... by 2000," she said.

Yates has reserved his judgment.

Topics: Apple, Legal, Australia


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • I have to agree with their ruling

    I've had an iPhone since the iPhone 3G, and over all I'm an Apple fan, but I never understood how they could lock that term down. Its like someone can create a "car store" that sells cars, and sues to make everyone else abandon that term. After all, those other companies sell automobiles. At my company, I work in "app dev" which has been the term since 2001. What was I building all this time?
    A Gray
    • :-)

      "App" is for "Apple Applications Store" ;-)
      "Apps dev" is for "applications development ". Maybe.
      Maria Davidenko
      • Sorry, I have to disagree

        App is a term that describes a mobile operating system application whether android, ios, or windows. People do not distinguish between those. Honestly, I don't the term "app store" or Google play. I simply download an app. If it's from apple I go to their "app store" or if it's from google, I go to their "app store." What bothers me most, is that it seems that most of the headlines that Apple makes is in the courtroom. I wish they would return to innovation. The Ipod was an amazing innovation that rocked the music world. The Iphone was not quite as innovative, but it definitely raised the bar for the smartphone world. The Ipad took a concept that had been around for years (the tablet) and put it on the map and made it useful for millions of people. Now, Apple seems in the protection mode: hoard their cash, sue the socks off of everyone, and give only incremental improvements to their products (so they can give more incremental improvements next year)
    • No one in mass public knew what "app" was before Apple

      Plus, the judge's argument is NONSENSICAL, because with this logic the judge would not allow almost any trade marks.

      For example, "Windows" is essentially concept of windows, only not made of wood/metal and glass, but painted on a monitor. Nothing to register here, right?

      But no, the judge is just hypocritical.
      • Plus, even among professionals after Apple changed the meaning of "app":

        Before it was just a jargon for "application", but now the main meaning is electronically downloadable application for mobile devices.

        (For example, Oracle database software or MS Office for Windows is not an app, it is still rather "application".)
        • Killer App

          People have been using the term app or "killer app" since early 2000. Particularly, in the early 2000 when widgets were often called apps.
          • Which people? No regular heard of "app" or, the more so, "killer app"

            The subject.
          • You must be a novice to computing

            That term "killer app" was was used all the way back in the days of CPM to describe a groundbreaking program that initiated a new round of hardware sales and development. In fact, as computers matured, people complained that there were no new killer apps to spur people to buy new hardware. So the fact that you haven't heard of it simply confirms your ignorance, or you could just be new to the comptuter world
          • Who?

            And IIRC widgets were always called widgets not apps.
      • That's right

        By saying "download it from the AppStore" most of people mean Apple and not any other store like PlayStore or anything else. But when it comes to Apple something almost always has happening to a judge . Like he/she becomes a hypocrite .
        Maria Davidenko
      • Correction: it was not judge's argument, it was Counsel's argument

        The subject.