Apple is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with Amazon over the latter’s use of the phrase ‘app store’ in connection with the Amazon App Store. Apple’s suit accuses the online retailing giant of both trademark infringement and unfair competition while Amazon asserts that term ‘app store’ is a generic phrase that doesn’t warrant trademark protection.
What’s interesting, though, is that the original trademark for ‘app store’ didn’t belong to Apple but rather to Salesforce, the San Francisco based cloud computing company that specializes in enterprise software.
So what gives Apple the right to not only use ‘app store’ in its products but to sue others from doing the same?
In a fascinating interview, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff explains that he gave Steve Jobs the ‘app store’ trademark as a gift to repay Jobs for some tremendous business advice he received from the Apple CEO a few years prior.
He has probably given me more help and more advice than just about anybody. And when I get in trouble and I kinda get lost in my own vision, I’ve been fortunate to be able to go and see him and he’s been willing to show me the future a couple times where I think I lost teh forrest for the trees.
Benioff’s prime example dates back to 2003 when he along with a number of Salesforce executives went down to Cupertino to talk to Jobs.
Jobs told Benioff and co that they had a fantastic enterprise app but advised them to build an ecosystem. So Beinoff and co went back to Salesforce HQ and, following Jobs’ advice, built a whole technology called ‘app store’ which enabled users to buy apps and run them in Salesforce. The initiative was dubbed app exchange, but Benioff liked the ‘app store’ phrase so much that the company acquired the domain and the URL.
A few years later, Beinoff was in attendance when Jobs introduced the iTunes App Store. Following the presentation, Beinoff went up to Jobs and told him, “I have a gift for you. I’m going to give you the trademark and the URL because of the help you gave me in 2003.”
Notably, Beinoff had previously worked at Apple during the Summer of 1984 as a programmer where he recounts Jobs having a profound influence on him.
“That summer,” Beinoff explained, “I discovered it was possible for an entrepreneur to encourage revolutionary ideas.”