Apple targets GetJar for using 'App Store' name

Mobile application provider GetJar is the latest Apple legal target for using the term "App Store" to describe its mobile application storefront.

Apple has targeted yet another company on its path toward making the term "App Store" its own.

A cease-and-desist letter from Apple, represented by the law offices of New York's Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, has surfaced today and takes aim at GetJar, a company that claims to have "the world's largest free app store."

In the letter--which was acquired by The Wall Street Journal and dated June 22, 2011--Apple's lawyers take aim at GetJar's claim, specifically the use of the term "App Store." Apple asserts that those two words relate to its own mobile application service, and that GetJar should not be using them to talk about its own.

"GetJar's use of Apple's APP STORE mark improperly suggests to consumers that numerous companies offer an APP STORE mobile download service, when in fact the term APP STORE refers exclusively to Apple's groundbreaking download service," the letter reads. Apple follows by suggesting that GetJar use "mobile download service" or "application download service," instead.

The letter then goes on to note that "Apple takes protecting its mark seriously" and that GetJar should stop using the words on its site and elsewhere, as well as agreeing to do so in the future.

In a statement provided to Mashable, GetJar's CEO Ilja Laurs said Apple's cease-and-desist letter was a "surprise."

"GetJar has been in the business of offering apps to consumers since 2005, well before Apple, and helped to pioneer the model that the general public understands as an app store today," Laurs said. "We have built a strong, global and growing business around this model, and plan to continue to use the phrase 'app store' to describe what we do."

Laurs said the legal action is "yet more proof that (Apple) tends to act as if it is above the law," and that the company "won't be bullied by Apple" despite GetJar's smaller size.

An Apple representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This is the latest in Apple's legal efforts to make the term "App Store" its very own and no one else's. Apple filed suit against retail giant Amazon back in March, taking aim at the company's newly launched Appstore--a digital download offering for users on Google's Android platform. At the time, an Apple spokeswoman said, "we've asked Amazon not to copy the app store name because it will confuse and mislead customers."

Amazon ended up countersuing Apple in April, arguing that the term was too generic, which then led to Apple saying that it "denies that the mark App Store is generic and, on that basis, denies that the Amazon Appstore for Android service is an 'app store.'"

Apple's original effort against Amazon hit a roadblock this week after a federal judge denied Apple's request to immediately stop the company from using the "Appstore" moniker with an injunction.

Besides the Amazon fracas, Apple's been tussling with Microsoft in its attempt to trademark the term in the U.S. Apple already has the trademarks in Europe, which have been targeted for invalidation in a group effort by Microsoft, HTC, Nokia, and Sony Ericsson.

GetJar, which is based in San Mateo, Calif., (just north of Apple's headquarters) was founded in 2004 and started up its application store a year later. The company picked up a $25 million round of funding back in February, which joined an $11 million effort from the year before. The company has struck numerous partnerships with companies like Sprint, AT&T, Yahoo, and Zynga.

Update at 4:45 p.m. PT: In a follow-up post about the letter on GetJar's company blog, Chief Marketing Officer Patrick Mork said that the company's not going to make the changes suggested in Apple's letter, a move that could very well lead to another lawsuit.

"GetJar won't be subject to this kind of bullying. We're not going to 'cease & desist,'" Mork wrote. "We were here long before Steve & Co. We were built by developers, to help developers. Not to help sell handsets or search results. In the words of Twisted Sister: We're not going to take it! Steve Jobs isn't our dad."

Mork goes on to argue that GetJar was distributing applications long before the iPhone was launched, and that the company doesn't even compete with Apple.

"Nobody can (compete) on iOS as they're a closed ecosystem. We merely re-direct Apple users to Apple's App Store as a courtesy," Mork wrote. "We do this for free with nothing in return. We don't even get much Apple traffic and our Android traffic is hundreds of times larger and strategically far more important."

GetJar is using the situation as a launchpad to start a new Facebook Cause called "The Open and Free App Movement" aimed at banding together smaller companies and developers who share its vision on mobile application pricing and distribution.

 

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