Did Apple just become a patent troll?
Only if Amazon is, too.
By Tim Beyers
Some days, watching the tech news cycle is like watching a soap opera. The Web is abuzz today with news that, on Friday, Apple (AAPL) sued Amazon.com (AMZN) for violating its trademark on the term "app store." Amazon's using the term to describe the digital market for Android apps that it's launching today.
On the surface, the suit seems loony. Don't we all use "app" and "app store" as generic terms? With each, we're describing broad concepts. Sure, iPhones have apps -- but so does every other smartphone out there. And where do we get these apps? App stores, of course. Even Steve Jobs says so. Microsoft (MSFT) has filed a petition to invalidate Apple's app store patent precisely because of our propensity to use these terms in common speech.
But don't be too quick to burn your mock turtleneck in protest. Amazon.com may have opened this particular can of worms when it patented "one-click checkout" more than a decade ago. Apple has since licensed the term for use in its own digital stores.
Now their roles are reversed. Apple contacted Amazon three times, demanding that the retailer stop using "app store" in describing its efforts to sell mobile software, Bloomberg reports. Apparently, the folks at Cupertino received no "substantive" response.
As a result, Apple alleges that Amazon.com unlawfully recruited software developers by trading on the "app store" moniker. Really? As if coders didn't already know that Google (GOOG) was working overtime to get more of them writing Android software? Claims don't come more ridiculous than that.
Yet the broader point remains. If Amazon can patent an ordering system and naming scheme, why can't Apple patent an app store? Pot, meet kettle.
Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think about Apple's lawsuit, Amazon.com's Android app store (sorry, Apple), and the state of patent and trademark filings using the comments box below.
Fool contributor Tim Beyers owned shares of Apple and Google at the time of publication. Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Google is also a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Amazon.com and Apple are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Motley Fool Options has recommended members create a bull call spread position in Apple and a diagonal call position in Microsoft. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft and has written Apple puts. The Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy is looking for patentable ideas. Got anything?
browse to www.google.com; search for "<my product> vs *"; pick the first result; pay lawyers to figure out something to sue someone, anyone about something, anything;
Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Tighter regulations and the end of a lengthy bull market in bonds have changed the landscape forever.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
Top Stocks provides analysis about the most noteworthy stocks in the market each day, combining some of the best content from around the MSN Money site and the rest of the Web.
Contributors include professional investors and journalists affiliated with MSN Money.
Follow us on Twitter @topstocksmsn.