Apple slams Amazon's Android e-store as 'inferior'

In legal clash, also calls out Android security gaffes, including malicious apps infiltrating Google's download center

Apple this week called Amazon's Appstore for Android "inferior" as it urged a federal court to block the online retailer from using the term "appstore," court documents show.

In the same filing, Apple also cited Android security problems, including one last week where Google was forced to pull more than 30 malicious apps from its own Android Market.

Apple and Amazon have been tussling in court since mid-March, when Apple sued Amazon for trademark infringement over the latter's use of "appstore."

Apple submitted a trademark application for "App Store" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2008. That application is pending, awaiting resolution of opposition from Microsoft.

In a filing on Wednesday, Apple countered Amazon's claim that "app store" is a generic label, and repeated its demand that the court issue a preliminary injunction barring Amazon from using the similar "appstore" to market its Android app download center.

"Amazon mischaracterizes Apple's tarnishment claim," Apple said in the June 8 reply to an earlier Amazon filing. "Apple has not asserted that the Android operating system is inferior. Rather, Apple has asserted that Amazon's service is inferior and will tarnish Apple's mark."

In the same section of Apple's rebuttal, the Cupertino, Calif. company claimed that Amazon's use of "appstore" would damage its trademark because of the content it offers Android users. "Among other things, Amazon is making software available that bypasses security safeguards on Android, thereby increasing the potential harm of viruses and malware to customers' Android devices," Apple said.

Unlike Apple, which does not allow iOS software in its App Store that requires a user to hack, or "jailbreak" an iPhone to be installed, Amazon offers applications for Android smartphones that have been similarly "rooted."

"Malicious applications have greater ability to cause harm on 'rooted' Android devices, and Amazon provides applications for such devices," Apple asserted.

Apple also tossed into the pot reports that malicious apps have appeared in Google's official Android Market. "And as Apple's Motion noted, even non-'rooted' Android-based devices have experienced significant security breaches. Last week, moreover, Google announced another 30 Android-based software applications were infected by malware," Apple asserted.

The last claim referred to Google's yanking of at least 34 apps from the Android Market.

Those apps -- pirated legitimate programs that had been reworked to included attack code, then re-released to the mart -- were designed to dupe users into downloading follow-up payloads.

Google pulled more than 50 malicious apps from the Market in March.

Apple also argued that Amazon's latest move shows it could easily use a non-infringing name for its Android Appstore if it wanted.

"Moreover, Amazon's recent launch of its 'Mac Software Downloads' service -- which competes with Apple's APP STORE software and service for Mac computers -- demonstrates that Amazon can brand its application download services without using the APP STORE mark," Apple said.

Amazon debuted a Mac-specific application download center two weeks ago. Numerous news reports, including one from Computerworld, noted that Amazon had not used "app store" or "appstore" in the name of the center, perhaps because of the ongoing legal battle.

Apple faces resistance to its App Store mark in both the U.S. and in Europe.

In January, Microsoft asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to deny Apple's application, arguing that because the term is generic, competitors should be able to use it.

Last month, Microsoft, its new partner Nokia, Sony Ericsson and HTC joined forces in an attempt to invalidate Apple's trademark in Europe.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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