Name theft troubling Chinese Windows 8 developers already. New policy may come to Windows Phone 8.

New name-changes to Windows 8 could come down to Windows Phone 8 in China

Less than 24 hours ago, Microsoft opened up the much anticipated app submissions to the Windows 8 store. However, the great news has been thwarted by Microsoft's new app naming policy.

In the Windows Phone Marketplace, app naming follows a pretty simple rule: name your app whatever you want. If multiple developers find the same name a great fit for their apps or games, they could just go ahead with it. For example, if you search the Marketplace for "engadget" now, you will end up with quite a few apps under the same name.

This won't happen in Windows 8 store though. Microsoft has now made it a policy that every app must have an unique name. More than that, Windows 8 developers apparently are allowed to "reserve" app names without actually submitting anything. As a result, Chinese developer MoHoo, the creator of popular Windows Phone app MoHoo Reader (e-book reader) and MoHoo Weather (weather app), woke up this morning only to find the name "MoHoo Weather" in Chinese has already been snatched by some early bird of dubious ethics.

Not being able to submit an app with established popularity under its rightful name, MoHoo filed a complaint to Microsoft (presumably Microsoft China), and claims to have got the following email screenshot in return:

 For a quick translation, essentially Microsoft's reply is saying:

"Hi dear developer. We are sorry you are not the legal owner of [the Chinese name for "MoHoo Weather"]. We know the app is doing well on Windows Phone 7 and do hope it to continue to be so on Windows 8. But you are supposed to be stuck in this frustration all right. You failed to reserve the app name first, and the name is not a legally recognized intellectual property of yours. To solve your problem, please try the following:

  • a) Legally establish the Chinese name for "MoHoo Weather" as your intellectual property, come back with another complaint then, submit all your legal papers and let's see what happens.
  • b) Find the guy who reserved your app name, and try to negotiage your way out of it.
  • c) Just find yourself a new app name and be done with it.

If you have any further questions or status update, please contact them."

Well, put everything aside, who's "them"? All parties involved in this are: MoHoo ("you"), Microsoft dev support ("us"), and a nameless party who supposedly snatched an app name. You are not suggesting a developer should report to the supposed thief over disputed app name, are you...?

And the folks at MoHoo actually went ahead to study how long or how much cost it takes to register "MoHoo Weather" as a Chinese trademark, a sure way to "legally announce ownership". The answer is discouraging. Not considering the money factor, it generally takes two years to get a trademark registered in China. By then I guess developers are probably looking forward to Windows 9 already. Intellectual property protection might not be a problem to big guys like Ubisoft. But to indie developers? Let me know if you could name any small scale developer with safe & sound legal protection for their own products.

Meanwhile, the developer behind Windows Phone game Happy Fisher also found the game's Chinese name "reserved" by somebody else in Windows 8 store. Microsoft should seriously think twice about its new app naming policy. This is like throwing "grass-root developers", aka a vibrant force in Windows/Windows Phone ecosystem into a sea of boiling chaos, while the big names are well protected. If this is indeed what Microsoft wants, I'm seeing a new business of quickly generating revenue already:

  • Create an App Hub account, with some cost but that will be recovered very soon.
  • Browse the Windows Phone Marketplace, write down the names of all popular apps & games.
  • Start reserving everything on your list, preferably the ones from weak indie developers.
  • Make a cup of tea and wait for people to reach you. Make a million dollars out of every single name transfering request.
  • Count the money, retire.

Why not? Looks like this is backed up by Microsoft policy anyway... Let us know if you have tried this and got considerable success, or if you are one of the unlucky guys with your app name stolen.

Update: According to WPDang's tracking, aside from MoHoo Weather, there are at least 5 other popular Chinese Windows Phone apps robbed of their names in the Windows 8 store. Microsoft's new policy is such a great opportunity for gold diggers. I wonder why it's not a global trend yet.

Updage again: MSDN China just made an official reply on Sina weibo to the situation. Apparently Microsoft made the policy but never seen this mess coming. The situation is said to be reported to Redmond, and a new complaint system might be on the way.

Source: Sina weibo (MoHoo); WPDang; Sina weibo (MSDN China)

Kane Gao