Though the holiday gift-giving battle between Apple’s iPad and Amazon’s Kindle may have quieted recently, the ongoing legal war between the two technology giants continues. Last week, Amazon.com Inc. scored an opening round victory when a California federal judge granted its motion for partial summary judgment, dismissing Apple’s false advertising claim against the online retailer.
Amazon launched its “Appstore” in March 2011 to offer downloads for use on the Android smartphone platform. Apple brought suit later that month, alleging multiple violations under the Lanham Act and then amended its complaint in November to tack on a false advertising claim. It was the false advertising piece of Apple’s case that was recently dismissed — the court found that Apple hadn’t produced any evidence that consumers were fooled by Amazon’s use of the term “Appstore.”
Apple essentially argued that by using the word “Appstore,” Amazon implied that its store is affiliated with or sponsored by Apple.
The judge ultimately sided with Amazon, stating “Apple has failed to establish that Amazon made any false statement (express or implied) of fact that actually deceived or had the tendency to deceive a substantial segment of its audience. The mere use of ‘Appstore’ by Amazon to designate a site for viewing and downloading/purchasing apps cannot be construed as a representation that the nature, characteristics or quality of the Amazon Appstore is the same as that of the Apple App Store.”
The judge noted that in Lanham Act false advertising cases, no explicit false statement of fact is required. But if an advertisement is not false on its face (i.e., if there is no express false statement), the plaintiff must produce evidence, usually in the form of market research or consumer surveys, demonstrating exactly what message was conveyed that was sufficient to constitute false advertising.
Here, Apple was unable to provide the required market research, consumer surveys or other data showing that Amazon conveyed any deceptive message by calling the section of its website selling Android applications an “app store.” As a result, the court found no evidence that a consumer who visits the Amazon Appstore would expect that it would be identical to the Apple App Store, particularly since the Apple App Store sells apps solely for Apple devices, while the Amazon Appstore sells apps solely for Android and Kindle devices.
Apple’s remaining trademark infringement claims are still pending, with trial scheduled to take place in August. Stay tuned for further developments in the ongoing legal battle between Goliath, and well, Goliath.