Apple attacks GetJar over App Store name

Apple has served independent software distributor GetJar with a cease & desist order over its use of the term 'App Store.'

GetJar - which says it is the world's largest free app store with over two billion downloads of 150,000 mobile applications on multiple platforms including Android, Blackberry, Java and Symbian - has told Steve Jobs in no uncertain terms what he can do with his order.

GetJar CMO Patrick Mork laid out the company's feelings in a blog post soon after the letter arrived.

"This isn’t really about Apple vs GetJar," he writes. "It would be presumptuous of us to think so given the difference in size and scale that’s apparent between the two companies. Better yet, we don’t even compete with Apple. Nobody can on iOS as they’re a closed ecosystem. We merely re-direct Apple users to Apple’s App Store as a courtesy.

"We do this for free with nothing in return. We don’t even get much Apple traffic and our Android traffic is hundreds of times larger and strategically far more important. Why do we even do it? Because as the largest FREE app store that serves consumers on over 2,500 devices in 190 countries we don’t discriminate against Apple users although Apple apparently chooses to discriminate against us."

Apple, which has already tried to prevent book-selling giant Amazon from using the term for its Android Appstore, says it owns the mark. Everyone else on the planet thinks the term 'app store' in its various forms is too generic to be owned by one company, even if Apple did get their first.

GetJar was formed by and for developers in 2004 and started distributing apps in 2005, "when the iPhone was just an R&D project in Steve Jobs' head," according to Mork.

"It’s not as if we were waiting around for Apple to come up with the idea of app stores and decided in 2011: 'Apps will be big, let’s scribble together a business plan and raise some VC money'," he writes.

Mork also questions whether Apple actually owns the mark in the fist place pointing out that the company was denied registration by the USPTO in 2008 and only later given a provisional registration on the proviso that nobody else objected. According to Mork, Microsoft and a number of other concerned parties did, indeed, object.

"For Apple to be going around threatening or suing others on the basis of a tenuous 'ownership' claim of a generic name that isn’t 100 per cent theirs is seriously 'taking-the-piss' as the English would say," remarks Mork.

He also points out that, although it doesn't use the term in its branding, GetJar has been describing its service as an 'App Store' in press releases as well as its positioning with trade, consumers and analysts since 2009 and has evidence to prove it.

Apple's timing is a little puzzling, but Mork has a theory: "It puzzles us that Apple’s C&D notice comes on the back of a major PR and marketing campaign initiated by GetJar as we helped bring one of iOS’s most popular games, Cut The Rope, to Android," he writes. "As their exclusive distribution launch partner, we help bring a game that had just won the Apple Design Award to Android consumers the world over. At the same time, we shifted our company positioning from Appsolutely Everything to Appsolutely FREE, since GetJar has been and always will be about FREE apps. Is this timing purely coincidental? Or does Apple care more about the fact that we’re trying to give apps away for free to consumers? You be the judge."

Mork says he is alarmed by the direction in which the app development and distribution industries, dominated by Apple and its ilk, are heading.

"The ecosystem as a whole is becoming increasingly closed," he says. "It’s character is dictated by larger companies exercising excessive force to get bigger shares of the pie. For example, Android was supposed to be FREE and open; yet developers can’t choose their billing solution. They have their price points micro-managed for them without input.

"If Apple isn’t suing Amazon, it’s suing start-ups. Now Microsoft, [which] is struggling to gain traction with Windows Mobile, is charging OEM’s for using Android using [the USA's] broken patent system. Where are all of these law suits and threats getting us? Is anyone actually worrying about whether app developers and content providers make enough money to keep the lights on?"

Mork is so miffed with Apple's arrogance that he's decided to start a Facebook campaign called The Open and Free App Movement (OFAM) "to encourage every pissed off developer, start-up, carrier, OEM or NGO who is fed up with this crap to make their voice heard."

"GetJar won’t be subject to this kind of bullying," Mork concludes. "We’re not going to 'Cease & Desist'. We were here long before Steve & Co. We were built by developers, to help developers, not to help sell handsets or search results. In the words of Twisted Sister: We’re not going to take it! Steve Jobs isn’t our Dad."