Microsoft’s new rule: no “Metro”-named apps (updated: clause removed)

Update: Microsoft seems to have updated the documentation again in the last 24 hours removing the clause about names containing “Metro”, instead, replacing it with a generic clause about apps infringing on other’s trademarks may be requested to be removed by the trademark holder.

Don’t use names trademarked by others
Make sure to select a name for your app that belongs to you. If you use a name that doesn’t belong to you, the owner of that name could have your app removed from the store. If that happens, you would need to change the name of your app and all instances of the name throughout your app and its content before you can submit your app for certification again.

If Microsoft’s Metro kerfuffle wasn’t enough of a logistical nightmare internally already, why not also make life hard for third-party developers?

Thanks to a heads up from MarkedUp’s blog post, Microsoft seems to have recently (August 14th) added to their Windows Store certification documentation the following piece of gem:

Note Make sure your app name doesn’t include the word metro. Apps with a name that includes the word metro will fail certification and won’t be listed in the Windows Store.

As Aaron rightfully pointed out, this implies applications like MetroTwit and a number of other third-party applications are now banned from the Windows Store. Even though MetroTwit is already in the Windows Store up and until now and is one of the most downloaded, highly rated and even most used applications in the social category.

What seems illogical to me is that if Microsoft was in a trademark dispute, there shouldn’t be any precedence for Microsoft to enforce naming rights by third-parties in an open market. In my understanding of copyright law, the trademark holder is the only one that should enforce its trademark by filing disputes.

In any case, we will be seeking legal advice. In the meantime, if MetroTwit doesn’t show up or stops showing up in the Windows Store, you know what happened. I guess that update with streaming and multi-accounts will just have to wait a little longer.

49 insightful thoughts

  1. If it were me, I’d name anything with Metro in the name just “M” as a replacement, just makes sense. MTwit, etc.

    Obviously, the whole situation sucks. I can’t believe Microsoft couldn’t have worked something out with the trademark holder (with $50B cash on hand, and all of its corporate muscle).

    1. That doesn’t work for everything – I made a desktop IRC client called MetroIRC, naming it MIRC would conflict with the popular mIRC. I’m sure I’m not the only one in that situation.
      Besides, forcing people to rename their apps is ridiculous – at least mine is not widely known, but MetroTwit users would probably be confused if they couldn’t find their Twitter client any more.

  2. Ah, that’s such a Microsoft thing to do. You should name your app kerfuffleTwit. People will expand their vocabulary. That’s gotta worth something, and it a social component.

  3. What about all those apps that feature METRO maps and planning tools (you know, METRO as in “Metropolitan Transportation System”, not METRO as in *censored*)? Just another sign of Microsoft madness that pushes me to stay clear of anything Windows 8 related if anyhow possible….

  4. Any competent corporate lawyer should be able to dispute this. A quick search of trademark databases will reveal many trademarks with “metro” in the name without causing legal conflicts as long as they’re sufficiently distinct.

  5. Isnt this Microsoft just trying to protect itself and its developers from legal liability? Seems whoever is claiming the Metro copyright wants to milk MS and they instead chose the option not to be held hostage. Requiring developers to simply change the name of their applications shouldnt warrant legal action. Or would you prefer to be sued by whoever is forcing the change on Microsoft?

  6. Long,

    First and foremost – let me say that I really enjoy using MetroTwit on Windows 8. It’s by far the best Twitter client for it so far.

    Second, I suggest VistaTwit as the new name for it :p

  7. What’s even worse is that there are businesses and other entities whose branding already legitimately includes the word “Metro”. Is Microsoft seriously saying that if the RATP in France wanted to create an app for the Paris Métro (in operation since the beginning of the last century) – something which is entirely plausible – that would be banned? That would be arrogant idiocy and utterly unjustifiable.

    Hey, why not call MetroTwit Silverlight? It’s not like Microsoft are using the word. Or maybe “BallsTwit”, ‘cos they’re not using those either.

  8. Seems like Micro$oft’s lawyers got there degrees from a for-profit-online “university” — and Ballmer ran out of gas.

  9. First thing I noticed about this article, you called the Windows Store an “Open marketplace”.. this is in fact, false…
    The Windows Store, like the Apple App store before it, is not open, you have to submit your app to a governing authority to have it approved… this governing authority can set any standards they wish for apps in their store.

  10. You said: “there shouldn’t be any precedence for Microsoft to enforce naming rights by third-parties in an open market”
    But MS marketplace is *not* an open market. You give Microsoft an exclusive right to distribute your app. Therefore Microsoft can (and has to) ask you to respect some copyright laws. Of course you can still use the name MetroTwit for ther Silverlight version of your program for Windows 7/8.

  11. The guideline http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/apps/hh694077.aspx existed prior to August – at least as far back as mid July.

    Your app is in the Store.

    If your app has a trademark already, then you’re probably fine. As your app has existed for a couple of years outside Windows, you’re probably fine. Do seek legal advice if you think you’ll need it, but as your app name is reserved and registered already, it seems unlikely that action would be taken retrospectively.

    The guideline looks like it’s designed to prevent a flood of Metro-this and Metro-that and blah-metro apps in the store, which benefit nobody and become a useless noise word. And it seems like it was good advice, given the current all-haste-exit from the use of that word.

  12. I’d like to see them block (or in the case of the update, have the 3rd party go after) an app named “metronome”. ;) [Ironically, it seems one does exist.]

  13. I wonder if there is even a real legal threat when it comes to conjoint names like “MetroTwit”. Sure, it contains the word “Metro”, but it can be seen as a single word/trademark. Maybe a neat solution would be to name it “Metrotwit”, here you can really argument that it’s a single word. The German metronom Eisenbahngesellschaft mbH did just that: They wanted to name their trains “MetroRail”, got into trouble with the Metro Group, and were allowed to call it “metronom” in the end.

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