Court Rejects Apple’s False Advertising Claim In “App Store” Trademark Lawsuit

The court has rejected Apple’s earlier claim that Amazon’s use of “Appstore” to describe its Android application marketplace was “false advertising,” according to a Bloomberg news alert. Apple had filed a trademark lawsuit in 2011, stating that Amazon’s use of the term “appstore” could cause confusion among consumers. In September 2012, Amazon asked a federal judge to dismiss Apple’s Fifth Cause of Action in the case – the aforementioned “false advertising” claim.

Apple was alleging that the use of the word “Appstore” in Amazon’s advertising is false advertising, but as Amazon explained in its filing, that word is part of the name of Amazon’s store. “It is not a statement about the nature, characteristics, or qualities of Amazon’s store, much less a false one,” the document stated. U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in Oakland, California, apparently agreed on this matter.

The false advertising claim was one of many tactics Apple was using against Amazon, but likely one of the least effective ones. By rejecting the claim, Amazon was essentially asking the court to focus on the trademark dispute, which is meant to determine if other companies have the right to use the generic term “app store.” In addition to trademark infringement and false advertising, Apple has also made other claims related to dilution and unfair competition.

This rejection only represents a partial summary judgement in the trademark case; the decision regarding trademark infringement has not yet been decided. On this front, Amazon has cited other incidences where former Apple CEO Steve Jobs and current CEO Tim Cook referred to competitors’ stores, calling them “app stores,” during press events and investor calls.

In this ruling, the document explains Amazon’s and Apple’s positions on the false advertising claim as follows:

Amazon argues that summary judgment should be granted as to this claim because Apple has not identified a single false statement that Amazon has made about the nature, characteristics, or quality of the Amazon Appstore for Android (or the Amazon Appstore, which allows viewing and downloading of apps for the Kindle Fire).

Apple essentially alleges that by using the word “Appstore” in the name of Amazon’s store, Amazon implies that its store is affiliated with or sponsored by Apple. Amazon argues that this allegation is nothing more than a garden-variety trademark infringement claim (false designation of origin).

According to the ruling, the court found “no evidence that a consumer who accesses the Amazon Appstore would expect that it would be identical to the Apple APP STORE, particularly given that the Apple APP STORE sells apps solely for Apple devices, while the Amazon Appstore sells apps solely for Android and 8 Kindle devices.”

Apple vs. Amazon Trademark Case: Case4:11-cv-01327-PJH Document102