updated 11:58 pm EST, Tue January 15, 2013
Negotiations begin on March 21 over use of the term
In an order filed earlier today, Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte -- presiding over hearings for the Apple versus Amazon "app store" suit -- has ordered the pair to try and hammer out an agreement before the case goes to trial. The two companies are now scheduled to meet on March 21 to come to a settlement. Apple owns the rights to the term "App Store" and "Appstore" in Europe, but a trademark on the term in the US is awaiting approval.
Apple's filed suit in March 2011, with the Cupertino manufacturer accusing Amazon of misusing the "App Store" name with its Android-only version. Further charges were added in November of 2011, with Apple claiming Amazon was guilty of false advertising.
Amazon has claimed that the term is too generic for trademarking. Earlier this month, the false advertising claims were ordered dropped by Judge Phyllis Hamilton. A number of outlets, including iPodNN, misreported the dismissal as the dropping of the entire suit based on a Bloomberg story.
Both Amazon and supporters like Microsoft have objected to Apple's App Store trademark. Most competing companies have noted that they were avoiding the "App Store" term partly to avoid legal trouble, not out of special regard for the name in question.
Apple has always said that App Store was to some degree a play on its own name, and only really entered into heavy use following the iPhone's original release in July 2008. Apple unquestionably invented the "App Store" as a digital software storefront for mobile applications, but virtual storefronts that sell downloadable software long preceded the App Store as Apple envisioned it.
Apple's case is believed to be weak. The Cupertino company has been stalled by HTC, Sony, and Nokia in its attempt to trademark the term "App Store" in the United States. Amazon and others have noted that "app" was a word of the year in 2010, and that even former Apple CEO Steve Jobs used the term "app store" generically to refer to options from competitors.