Stores existed before Apple: Registrar of Trademarks

Counsel for the Australian Registrar of Trademarks has argued that the concept of an 'app store' isn't something Apple invented.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

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Apple took the registrar to court in March this year after the 'App Store' trademark's initial acceptance was revoked and after the company lost an appeal of the decision twice, firstly by the trademark examiner and then by the Australian Trade Marks Office.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

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