Apple, Microsoft Hire Linguists in App Feud


By Ian Sherr

Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc. have both hired linguists to serve as experts in the tech titan’s ongoing battle over whether or not the government can grant a trademark for the term “app store.”

Microsoft on Tuesday filed its latest argument with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which included the opinions of a linguistic expert who supported the software giant’s argument that the term “app store” was generic and shouldn’t be trademarked by Apple.

“The compound noun app store means simply ‘store at which apps are offered for sale,’ which is merely a definition of the thing itself—a generic characterization,” linguist Ronald Butters wrote.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

Microsoft hired Mr. Butters to counter Apple’s own linguistic expert, Robert Leonard, who asserted that the electronics giant’s “App Store” was a proper noun and deserved to be trademarked, even though the words are generic when separated.

The legal tussle has become a prime example of how litigious the technology industry has become following the rapid sales growth of smartphones and tablet computers. Nearly all mobile-device makers are actively suing or defending themselves in lawsuits against one another.

Apple, in particular, has been the target of lawsuits from a variety of companies spanning from device makers like Nokia Corp. and patent holders such as Eastman Kodak Co., all looking to either block the consumer electronics giant’s efforts or grab some share of its success.


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(Published March 30, in The Wall Street Journal.)

Apple to Sell Tech Support for Small Businesses


By Ian Sherr

Apple Inc. is preparing to offer a package of services aimed at small- and mid-sized business that includes expanded support for company computer systems, part of the electronics maker’s efforts to appeal to users beyond its core consumer base.

Apple Wednesday will unveil “Joint Venture,” a $499-a-year service contract that gives companies using Apple’s computers, smartphones and tablets priority treatment for technical support, training programs and repairs, according to two Apple employees. The employees asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak about the initiative publicly.

Joint Venture contracts will cover five systems at a business, the people said. Coverage for each additional system—Apple’s term for a grouping of a computer, monitor and iPhone—costs $99 a year, they said.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

The introduction of Joint Venture, which comes as Apple is expected to unveil the next generation of its iPad tablet computer, marks the company’s further push into the business user market. Last year, the company began creating specialized teams at its chain of more than 300 retail stores to negotiate pricing terms with business customers. It also began incorporating conference rooms at some of its sleek stores for meetings with business executives.


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(Published March 1, 2011, in The Wall Street Journal.)