Technology IPThe world of technology is cut-throat. As it should be if you consider the money involved, with the hype regarding LinkedIn's listing being the latest example. On the trade mark front, Microsoft is trying to cancel Apple's European trade mark registrations for APP STORE. Why? The expression, says Microsoft, is descriptive of stores offering apps (for the benefit of the seriously old school, I should point out that 'apps' stands for applications and not apprentices!) There is, unsurprisingly, some history here - Apple has in the past claimed that Microsoft's trade mark WINDOWS in generic.
The tech companies are all over the place with trade marks. When Microsoft brought out BING to challenge GOOGLE, Steve Balmer, the Microsoft big cheese who isn't Bill Gates, announced that he hoped the word 'bing' would soon 'verb up'. By which he meant that he wanted it to become a generic term for searching. A bit like 'google' has some might argue. But that would mean that the word 'bing' is no longer your trade mark and that anyone can use it, surely you don't want that Mr. Balmer, ventured some with the timidity with which one questions billionaires? I don't care replied Balmer, in this day and age it no longer matters if a trade mark become generic, products have such a short lifespan that by the time the name becomes generic we've all moved on.
Mark Zuckerberg is another geek with an interesting take on trade marks. Zuckerberg is, of course, the man who created FACEBOOK, the service used by the billion or so people who are incapable of developing actual human relationships, but still have a need to have people they can call friends. In the film The Social Network, Zuckerberg is portrayed as a bit of a loser. But the film also shows that he's certainly no goofy accidental billionaire. Back in 2004 Zuckerberg registered FACE as a trade mark for chat rooms. Yes 2004, when FACEBOOK was a fraction of what it is now - a FACEPARAGRAPH perhaps, a FACESENTENCE maybe, possibly no more than a FACEDOODLE. More recently Zuckerberg has applied to register BOOK for social networks - fortunately this hasn't gone unnoticed and the application's been opposed by two companies. Quite right too: FACEBOOK is quite entitled to protect its rights – and it has in the past taken issue with products called LAMEBOOK, TEACHBOOK and PLACEBOOK – but it should do so on the basis of the trade mark it actually uses, which is FACEBOOK.
This nonsense of registering constituent parts of a trade mark should stop. Don't be surprised if Apple argues that APP is really an abbreviation of Apple, and therefore something that it can register. And that it can also register I or PHONE. Microsoft will claim that it can register MICRO, and You Tube that it can register YOU. The only company that won't be in a rush to register an abbreviation is Twitter.
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