In its latest attempt to assert its territory over the phrase “App Store,” Apple lawyers sent a cease and desist letter last month to a mobile application database, GetJar, suggesting that it instead use terms such as “application download service” or “mobile download service.” The Cupertino company claims that exclusive use of the term is necessary to avoid confusion for its consumers. In response, GetJar CEO, Ilja Laurs said that the company plans to continue to use the term “App Store” to describe what it does. Mr. Laurs explained, “GetJar has been in the business of offering apps to consumers since 2005, well before Apple, and helped pioneer the model that the general public understands as an app store today. . . This move by Apple is yet more proof that the company tends to act as if it is above the law, and even as one of the smaller players in the space, we won’t be bullied by Apple.” The Chief Marketing Officer for Getjar protested the letter, stating “We’re not going to take it! Steve Jobs is not our dad.” The much smaller rival claims that Apple cannot possibly be concerned about competition, as GetJar is unable to provide the same services that Apple markets through its store.

This letter is just one part of the ongoing drama for Apple, which has been involved in several lawsuits after it gained trademark rights to the phrase “App Store” in 2008. One of Apple’s most prominent suits targets Amazon’s Android App Store, which was released in March. Last week a federal judge denied Apple’s request for a preliminary injunction against Amazon. Although the judge did not find the term “App Store” completely generic, she held that Apple had failed to show a “likelihood of success” that Amazon’s use diluted the term, making a preliminary injunction inappropriate.

However, many smaller companies lack resources to face Apple in a legal battle over the phrase. Though GetJar recently received a $25 million investment that will help support its refusal to comply with Apple’s demands, Amahi, a small software maker who also received a cease and desist letter, stated that it did not have the resources to enter into a legal contest with Apple. Even though Apple is likely to prevail in a significant number of these suits, it is facing greater resistance than it anticipated. But if Apple views the App Store as an essential element of its success, it will not be deterred. Highlighting the importance of the App Store for the company’s growth, Apple announced this past Thursday that its App Store had reached more than 15 billion downloads just three years after launch. More letters will go out if Apple continues to see this as a battle worth winning.

- Virginia Maynard

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