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Here's my scenario with made-up names: A big company called Supersoft have announced that in about 3 months they're going to release an Android app called "Supersoft Metronome" (where Metronome is a fairly common noun). I want to call my new iPhone app (notice the other app is on Android) "Metronome" and I'm ready to release in a week. Should I rename my app? Will I get in legal trouble otherwise? Both apps are in the same category of program.

I've already bought a related domain name, paid for artwork and styled my app around the name so I really don't want to change it now. I've considered extending the name to something like "Metronome Music Editor". Would this protect me?

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closed as off-topic by MichaelT, GlenH7, Dynamic, Bart van Ingen Schenau, gnat Dec 21 '13 at 10:22

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just call it MetroGnome and then have the logo be a little gnome :) –  Trevor Arjeski Apr 28 '11 at 2:04
    
In all seriousness, would this be enough to avoid a lawsuit? There is a trend right now to pick short common noun phrases for app names and they're running out fast. –  rebeccamaher Apr 28 '11 at 3:40
    
Alas, if Supersoft is one of the big players you can expect them to try to squish you whatever you do –  LRE Apr 28 '11 at 3:47
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This question appears to be off-topic because it is about specifics of trademark law that go beyond the general knowledge of a computer programmer, requiring a lawyer to give an authoritative answer. –  MichaelT Dec 20 '13 at 16:09

2 Answers 2

I'm not a lawyer but as far as I know, you can't trademark common nouns. As long as you don't call your app Supersoft Metronome, you're fine.

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What about Windows and Apple though? They're common nouns and I'm pretty sure I'd get in trouble for using those. –  rebeccamaher Apr 28 '11 at 2:33
    
Apple did get in trouble! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Corps_v_Apple_Computer –  GrandmasterB Apr 28 '11 at 4:04
    
So the thing is that Apple has nothing to do with a computer except through the brand. Plus naming a company is a first come-first serve thing. If I wanted to name my software company A Software Company, Inc. I have to do a name search to make sure no one else uses that name or a similar name. But if I want to name my product A Software App, no one can trademark it because it's a generic name. Interesting thing about trademarks is if you don't explicitly protect it you lose it, just ask Bayer about Aspirin en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspirin#Trademark –  Mike Brown Apr 29 '11 at 6:11

You really need to speak to a lawyer on this one as it sounds like there could be a case for trademark dilution - especially considering that you're in the same market.

Excerpt:

Dilution is a basis of trademark infringement that only applies to famous marks. With non-famous marks, the owner of the mark must show that the allegedly infringing use creates a likelihood of confusion as to the source of the product or service being identified by the allegedly infringing use.

Considering that "Supersoft" probably has way more money and incentive than you, you'll probably get sued even if you could win a case. Could you afford that when you still have time to come up with a different name?

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Thanks, this is along my line of thinking as well. Even if I could win a lawsuit, I couldn't afford it and would have too much to lose. I really liked my old name and the artwork/theme for it. It's very frustrating but that's life I suppose. By the way, I don't think dilution applies here as the app name from Supersoft isn't famous yet. The company itself is famous but the product is new, www.metronome.com (to continue the example) is taken by someone else and there are a few companies and non-famous software packages called Metronome from about 5 years ago. –  rebeccamaher Apr 28 '11 at 3:31

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