Catchword in the NY Times: The Fight Over AppStore

By Laurel Sutton

March 29, 2011

The lovely and talented Ben Zimmer wrote a wonderful Week in Review column this weekend about the ridiculous battle between Apple and Amazon over the name AppStore. (Apple is suing Amazon for using it, as if they could own such a generic term.) And because he’s so amazing, he consulted both me and my homey Chris Johnson, the Name Inspector, for some expert naming advice.

Hop on over to the NY Times and read the whole thing! Here’s the part that quotes moi:

According to Christopher Johnson, a branding expert who runs the Web site the Name Inspector, “there’s a land grab going on” in the information economy, as “companies are trying to snatch up pieces of our cultural commons.” He lays much of the blame on the increasing scarcity of available names, whether for trademarks, domain names or Twitter handles.

Laurel Sutton, co-founder of the branding company Catchword, said she believed that the United States Patent and Trademark Office is “about five Internet years behind the times” in its willingness to allow companies like Apple to stake claims to generic words and phrases. “All kinds of stuff gets approved that probably shouldn’t have,” Ms. Sutton said. If Apple’s trademark is upheld, she reasons, it won’t harm the bottom lines of Microsoft and Amazon — but smaller companies could be hurt. “This type of appropriation of language is only going to continue unless the U.S.P.T.O. realizes the potential for damage,” she warned.

I wonder if everyone at the USPTO hates me now. It’s not personal! It’s business!

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