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 (opens in new tab) (e-book reader) and MoHoo Weather (opens in new tab) (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 (opens in new tab) 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
  • there should be a way of designating "official app" as part of the identification process so that legitimate devs are not screwed over, but stil keeping the naming policy? To be "official", MSFT should require specific documentation from all parties for review? I don't know, just babbling because this is a terrible situation to start the new Windows.
  • I like the official designation. It doesn't have to show that on the store (if they want all the apps to be treated the same way), but this would prevent app name squatting.
    Also, shouldn't app developers get first dibs on their already published app names? How else can they expect developers to port their apps over? Surely Microsoft has access to all the current apps, and have the names reserved for the developers for about a year. After that, the names become available for anyone to register. This would also give the devs enough time to strategize their push towards Windows 8. Just my thoughts..
  • i say that every one should file a class action sute against microsoft, i bet that policy will change in one hot second, i think im gonna try and register agry birds or one of the varations, just for fun or one of microsofts names and see how they like it.
  • I don't agreed with the thieves that steal others intellectual property, but I also not sympathy to what is happened to them in China, they are not respect others intellectual property too.
  • Sounds like the .com mess from years back. Reserve name; rake in dough. Still being done today of course. Hmm, I wonder if I should reserve my app idea name. It doesn't exist yet though. How frustrating. :|
  • they need to crack down on this stuff in the US marketplace as well.  Basically, get rid of every crap app called CNN and only allow the real thing.  I'd even help them file the cease and desists if they would let me.  If a crap unofficial CNN app appears at the top of an app search something is wrong!
  • The problem is, CNN is crap. Therefore by default all CNN apps are crap.
  • my example applies to any tradmarked brand, no matter what your narrow minded opinion is of CNN.
  • i like their idea on this new policy. REason for that is i dont want 100+ apps called the same where 50 of them could be malicious and cause some damage. Of course Microsoft is filtering its app submissions, but you never know. But yes, this is a mess and Microsoft should look into the already popular apps, or devs that have made apps and reserve them their app name since they have made one prior.
  • Surely it should just be a case of that priority is given to creators of established apps, or that MS should have reserved all exisiting apps for the developers to claim.
  • I saw this coming. I was very surprised to see that I could reserve my app name without a submission. I immediately registered all my app names before they were stolen, I did this within 5 minutes of setting up my account. I can't imagine how happy the IP hoarders are right now.
    I could've easily grabbed the major website names, but how frakking shady is that?
  • I did the same and was hugely relieved when my names were accepted. The reserved app names are removed if they aren't used within a year, but I'm not sure what happens after that, i.e if the developer can just reserve it again. I like the idea of unique names, but surely it would be better not to reserve names and instead test for uniqueness on submission. There's nothing to stop people creating place-holder apps for names, but at least it would be obvious and easier to tackle if that were the case. I do like the more integrated submission process with Visual Studio though.
    Actually, forget the moral stance, I wonder if Angry Birds is still available...
  • Better that this gets brought up now than later. Hope MS makes the right move, whatever it may be
  • +1
  • the same mess happened with
  • I guess I don't understand why Microsoft bothered. True, we have the situation where more than one app is named CNN. OTOH, every app in the listing also shows the name of the submitting entity. Maybe it's just me, but I would think CNN by CNN Interactive is probably the real deal, vs CNN by Mirit Kaufman, or by rrrrgarg. You cannot out-program people who refuse to use common sense.
  • Would it not be easy to sign up using a name that sounds official? Such as the one you suggested. Downloading an app or software because it "sounds" official is a phishing trap.
  • Yeah, and ensuring that every app name is unique totally solves that phishing problem.
  • Sounds like a half thought, but well-intended, idea that needs to be ironed out quite a bit. Disappointing devs and preventing them from maintaining their brand name isn't a good way to expand the Store, or, get their support.
  • Come on MS, developers are the key to the success of WP8.
  • I reserved all my wp app names on w8 store long time ago, as I imagined this should happen...Anyway, it did not take a genious to think a rule that automatically reserves wp7 app names for the same developer. I love Ms but sometimes they really hurt developers, as the "restricted access" to wp8 SDK !!!!!!
    Any news...? Details should be revealed today...
  • This is a nightmare.
  • The easy solution is to only hold app name reservations for 90 days and restrict each account from "squatting" on a name(no repeat reservations).  Obviously the intention of name reservation is to make sure that your app name isn't taken before you're ready to submit your app to the store.  This gives developers a window of time to reserve their app name before completion of said app and removes the possibility that someone leaks their app name, a third party snatches it up and squats on it and said developer is forced to either a) rename their app, or b) pay some kind of ransom to get it released.
  • Or even better, IMO, is to revert back to the old way. If there is no way to reserve a name, there is no way to squat it.
  • Right now it looks like you have a year: "After you reserve a name, you must submit the app to the store within one year, or you lose your reservation."
  • Soooo..... now I am wodering if the Taptitude guys are wanting their name back.... There has to be a better solution then to restrict the names like that.
  • Good god, it's cyber squatting all over again. It's not just about reserving the names of established apps, but the names of all major companies, websites, celebrity names. This is crazy and I can't see any way out of it other than Microsoft backing down and allowing duplicate names again.