Apple’s “There’s An App for That” Trademark on the Books

Apple (s aapl) originally applied for a trademark registration certificate for the now-ubiquitous marketing phrase “There’s an app for that” in December of 2009. In that filing, the company claimed the phrase’s first use was on Jan. 26, 2009 (video included below). There’s little doubt Apple did indeed pioneer the use of the phrase, but the official certificate has finally been awarded.

The trademark is filed under the Advertising, Business and Retail Services, Computer and Software service and Scientific services categories, and applies to “retail store services featuring computer software provided via the Internet and other computer and electronic communication networks; retail store services featuring computer software for use on handheld mobile digital electronic devices and other consumer electronics.”

Any other usage technically wouldn’t constitute infringement, so, for instance, cheesy blog headlines (including those I’ve been guilty of writing myself) are free to continue to proliferate. Sure, trademarking an entire phrase may seem a little excessive, but is it surprising?

According to Evan Brown of Internet Cases, the answer is no. “I don’t think it should come as a surprise to anyone that Apple is claiming exclusive rights to use this trademark in connection with its retail services and the app store,” he said via email when contacted for comment. “At this point, getting the trademark registration certificate just completes the formality. After all, don’t most people who hear ‘there’s an app for that’ think of Apple?”

In fact, Brown goes on to point out that really, a trademark goes into effect as soon as it’s first used, so Apple has been able to defend the phrase since January of 2009, if its dates are accurate. Having the certificate just makes it easier to make its case. At most, we’ll see fewer ads like this one, though given how quickly marketing gets old these days, we weren’t very likely to see much more of that type of thing anyway.

We’ll see if the official certificate affects the vigor with which Apple depends this trademark. My bet is that Cupertino will be looking much more closely at uses of the term “facetime” in the tech and business world, though, since that phrase (trademark applied for) will probably have much longer legs as it makes its way into future Apple devices, and is probably much more likely to be used by competitors, unintentionally or otherwise. It’s probably also harder to defend, since it’s a phrase people have been using for ages. That’s where we’ll see real sparks fly.


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