There’s an app for that…
You’re probably familiar with the popular catchphrase. It can be found in a variety of creative memes across the Internet.
But did you know the combination of words has been trademarked since 2009? When the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple rightful ownership.
Obviously, the trendsetting company knew a good thing when they saw it.
Are You in Danger of App Store Trademark Infringement?
As of June 2015, more than 100 billion mobile apps had been downloaded from the Apple App Store. Unfortunately, they are increasingly becoming a source of confusion for brands navigating the trademark search and clearance process.
In this article, we’ll discuss why that is and how to ensure your brand is protected from app store infringement. But first, a quick review of apps themselves:
Apps: The Facts
Mobile apps are software applications designed to run on smartphones, tablet computers, and other mobile devices. They are sold through virtual app stores. Some of the most popular are Apple’s App Store, Google Play, Windows Phone Store, and BlackBerry App World.
- Users spend 90% of their time in apps compared to the mobile Web.
- Mobile app downloads are expected to reach approximately $269 billion in 2017.
- Mobile app revenues amounted to $69.7 billion in 2015.
- Mobile app revenues are projected to generate $188.9 billion by 2020.
Protected Under Common Law
An estimated 60,000 new apps are created every month in categories ranging from sports and entertainment to productivity and organization. Understandably, many of the companies and individuals creating these apps are not officially trademarking their names.
Why go through a lengthy application process for what may just be an experiment? So long as transactional history and first use can be proven, app names are protected under common law.
The United States is considered a “first in time, first in right” country. As a result, both enterprising individuals AND Fortune-500 companies are on equal footing when it comes to trademark ownership.
Don’t Get Caught Not Knowing
In order to illustrate how this works, let’s invent a scenario:
Say there is a college freshman named Justin.
Justin is a gamer and programmer who created an app — he named it Fireplace.
Over the past year, Justin has made a grand total of $50 from app sales. While that may not be much, Justin sees potential. As soon as summer break comes, Justin plans to revamp the app according to customer feedback.
Meanwhile, a group of executives at a very well-known game company — more than 2,000 miles away — are planning to launch a new board game. Their top naming candidate? Fireplace.
The game manufacturer outsourced a comprehensive trademark search before applying for registration. Unfortunately, their “comprehensive search” wasn’t so comprehensive, and app store usage was overlooked.
Being the savvy kid he is, Justin has continued to expand upon his original app creation post-college. He has parlayed what was just a side-project into a viable revenue stream. When he goes to officially trademark his name, he sees the name being used by the well-known game company.
What happens next? Well, that depends.
But theoretically, Justin could force a gigantic corporation to change its entire branding strategy, costing them thousands (if not millions) of dollars.
NameCheck™ your trademark candidate
Preventing such situations from occurring and knowing more than your opposition should they ever occur is a key part of any trademark professional’s search strategy.
Our AI-powered clearance search solution, NameCheck™, enables you to clear your top marks across multiple regions and common law data sources (including App stores) within seconds.
Fast track your clearance search and get search reports ranked and analyzed by intelligent legal technology.
*This is an informational opinion article of the author. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent official policy or positions of Corsearch or its clients.
*The above trademarks and logos are not affiliated with or owned by Corsearch, and are used for illustrative purposes only as public record from the respective Trademark Offices.
*The above-mentioned brands are noted for factual reporting purposes only, the listing of the brands does not imply any relationship with Corsearch or its related entities.