By Stephanie Bodoni
(Updates with Apple response in the sixth paragraph.)
May 13 (Bloomberg) — Microsoft Corp. and Nokia Oyj are among four technology companies challenging Apple Inc.’s European Union-wide trademarks for “Appstore” and “App Store.”
Nokia, the world’s largest mobile-phone maker, Microsoft, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB and HTC Corp. all filed separate requests yesterday with the EU trademark agency in Alicante, Spain, seeking to invalidate Apple’s trademark rights.
The companies “are seeking to invalidate Apple’s trademark registration for ‘APP STORE’ and ‘APPSTORE’ because we believe that they should not have been granted because they both lack distinctiveness,” according to a statement from Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker.
A decision by the agency could be appealed all the way to the EU’s top court in Luxembourg. Apple, which pioneered the sale of mobile-device applications, accounts for more than three-quarters of revenue in the industry — even as Google Inc.’s app sales grow faster. Apple’s App Store offers more than 350,000 apps for iPhones, iPods, and iPads. It will bring in $2.91 billion in revenue in 2011, up 63 percent from last year, according to researchers at El Segundo, California-based IHS ISuppli.
Amazon.com Inc. on April 15 opposed Apple’s two EU trademarks, according to documents on the trademark agency’s website. The dispute over the validity of the Apple rights has also reached the U.S., where Amazon, after being sued for trademark infringement by Apple, argued the intellectual property right was invalid.
Alan Hely, a U.K.-based spokesman for Cupertino, California-based Apple, declined to comment, saying the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
Mark Durrant, a spokesman for Espoo, Finland-based Nokia, and Sony Ericsson spokeswoman Mandy Slater confirmed the companies also objected to the trademark registration.
The phrase “means just what it says, a store for ‘apps,’ which in itself is a generic term for the services that the trademark registrations cover,” Durrant said in an e-mail.
Apple’s App Store started in 2008, offers downloads of programs from the company and third-party developers. Sales of apps from sites run by Apple, Google, Nokia and Research In Motion Ltd. will rise 78 percent this year from $2.1 billion last year, IHS ISuppli said.
Decisions by the EU trademark agency’s cancellation division can be appealed first to the agency’s own appeals board and later to the EU’s two top courts.