Skip to main content

Microsoft reportedly moving away from Metro name on trademark claim

Windows 8-Style UI? Ewww...

Just as things were getting good for Microsoft word is coming out that the word “Metro” may be problematic for the company. 

The term ‘Metro’ is reportedly being claimed as a trademark for German company Metro AG and it will no longer be used by Microsoft, effective immediately. Ars Technica is reporting that Microsoft’s Legal and Corporate Affairs team sent out a memo banning the word "Metro” from all public usage which is a sign that something is awry.

Microsoft did respond to Ars Technica playing off the change as a planned strategy:

“We have used 'Metro style' as a code name during the product development cycle across many of our product lines. As we get closer to launch and transition from industry dialog to a broad consumer dialog we will use our commercial names.”

Personally speaking we find all this to be unfortunate as we understood the term to be “Metro UI” in reference to the design based off of public transportation systems including airports and subways.  The notion that people would confuse it with the company Metro AG seems a bit of a stretch as the term seems generic enough to not warrant a trademark.

Then again, we’re not lawyers and Microsoft does have plenty of those so we’ll leave those decisions to them.

“Metro UI” did have a ring to it though, something that its reported replacement, “Windows 8-style UI” simply does not.

Source: Ars Technica

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

171 Comments
  • Lol, amasing
  • Metro is a public word, it means "meter" in italian and Spanish too.
  • Maybe Microsoft will call it "MetroUI" with no spacing. This would make it a new word.
  • This might sound ignorant but do apple and android have names for there UI's I thought "Android" was the name of the OS and the same with IOS. I know oems have names for there UI's like Touchwiz and Sense.
  • or... they can call it WinRT. since this is apart of W8 and WP8
  • So is "Apple"
  • Speaking about apple a day to keep the doctor away. Anyways apple had also made a big deal about the word "apps" a while back they didn't want other platforms using it bc "they think they created the word". To me it looks like the same with "metro" it's just another universal word so deal with it.
  • It was "App Store" not apps. Everyone has apps. Amazon has Appstore too. Android is now using "Google Play" and WP has "Marketplace". 
  • In Windows 8 it's named Store, which makes it an app store. :-) I wonder if they are gonna change everything to Store, or if they are separating them? Anyone word on that?
  • App is short for application...
  • And Apple had some legal troubles over their trademarkt, because of Apple Corps (aka the Beatles music company).
  • Yea, back in the 80s, haha.
  • And the storyline is its a GERMAN company!
  • That's stupid.
  • Wow this is soooooo stupid.
  • Apple would have sued the company and claimed they came up with it in 2000 :|
  • You mean like how The Beatles sued Apple over their name in 1980?  Suing isn't just an Apple thing...and it's not like they aren't justified to do so anyway.
  • Has anyone told Sir Paul about Applebees? Maybe we all should sing a round of...."riding on the Metro"
  • Pretty sure Apple and the Beatles had agreed that Apple could use the name so long as it had nothing to do with music.  With the launch of iTunes, Apple was no longer in compliance with the agreement between the two companies.  It was Steve Job's refusal to honor the agreement that brought the lawsuit on.  And Cisco owned the name iPhone and as we see now, someone in China already had iPad.
  • In the words of Steve Ballmer, there's nothing like "metro metro metro metro"!
  • Wow, that's funny.. The world we live in these days!
  • I second that!
  • It's ridiculous. Ok, Metro AG is a massive company in Germany, but Microsoft weren't launching a product specifically called metro. They were using it as a descriptor. And a great descriptor too. You can't trademark an everyday word for goodness sake. It's not like they were opening a chain of stores called metro. Incredible.
  • This is exactly what I was thinking. Where is the "Metro" product. What does the "Metro" interface have to do with Metro AG?
  • I wonder if this German company is familiar with the Canadian grocery chain Metro
  • Or the free English national newspaper "Metro"?
  • The Metro adpaper is not UK only, it has local versions all over Europe.
  • In Brazil too.
  • Ya true that us Canadians own the trademark METRO... Not Germans :D Canada Rules!
  • Wonder if Paris will have to rename their subway system now.
  • Seriously, why do Germans always ruin everything? Jk =P
  • Ze Ger-mans? /faux-german accent
  • Haha. Windows Phone 8 style-UI would be even worse. Too wordy Microsoft! Haven't you learned?! Why not Metro-UI?
  • Did you even read the article?
  • Lmao no seriously... Did you read the article?
  • Typical troll statement
  • While I think this is a stupid reason to end it, I was never fond of the term "Metro" to begin with.  That said, "Windows 8 style UI" is not great either.
  • Same here.  I never liked the term Metro.  Everytime I heard it I emidiately think metro sexual.  And I really dislike that term on many different levels.
  • Grow up.
  • Metrosexual is a real term... In common language it was abbreviated to just metro i.e. "That is so metro!"
  • UI METRO.
  • How about Transit UI
  • Transit sounds good. I was thinking Flow but I feel as though it's already taken.
  • Transit UI sounds really good :)
  • How about Urban UI?
  • Then the UI would be drab and dirty and busy and they would have to add a homeless guy somewhere. :)
  • Just thought: one of England's biggest free papers is called Metro. There's even a (very good) app for it. Are Metro AG going to sue them? I'm not sure I buy this story. Maybe MS have just decided to drop the Metro name for other reasons
  • We have a car dealer called Apple. Apple should know about this (Apple Music anyone?). Seems like if you're not in the same line of business, it really shouldn't be an issue.
  • Apple Valley, Applebees, Fiona Apple,
  • why not be honest call it Swiss Graphic Design?
  • Perhaps the Paris Underground should sue these German upstarts. :-)
  • EXACTLY!!!
  • So, only in Germany they can't use "metro"?
  • Bummer. Metro and Surface were huge leaps in branding for Microsoft. I think well have a case of it being called Metro in the community for...ever.
  • Does not stop the public from saying it.
  • Exactly! Just because MS won't call it that, doesn't mean we won't.
  • +1
  • I'd bet Metro AG has a big EA renewal coming up and they threatened to not renew unless MS stopped using the term
  • Isn't this just rumors? Maybe what ms are saying officially is true? The Metro name was only the code name and clue for the design, maybe recent evolution makes the term obsolete, and also maybe non-geeks shouldn't be exposed to it?
  • This is definitely true. MS LCA sent a notification yesterday about this
  • Gay UI / European UI / Yuppie UI / Techno UI
  • How grown up of you...
  • Only during product development? BS! http://www.microsoft.com/design/toolbox/tutorials/windows-phone-7/metro/
  • Maybe laws have changed, but I was though that trade marks can be used by other companies as long as it has nothing to do with the product or service the original trade mark was made for. In this case, Metro AG is a retailer where is MS was using as a name for their UI. This would not violate the original trade mark as a UI has nothing to do with a retail chain. Just like how their are many products called "transformers," but only one is a toy line of alien robots (ex. electrical transformer).
  • Maybe trademark laws are different in Germany. There's always Live UI. Oh,... That's right... Microsoft just ditched Live branding.
  • Idk how it works in Germany, but in US you CAN use common words for trademark, but they must but unique/not obvious to the item they name. For example, I can't trademark "soda" brand soda, because it's not distinctive/unique enough. I can, however, trademark "soda" brand shoe laces, because the soda is not an obvious connection to shoe laces, think apple computers. Certain colors are trademarked within certain industries, like the green color for John Deer tractors and lawn mowers. As far as using those names in other industries, the rule is that if there is a chance that a consumer may reasonably confuse the connection between the two, it's infringement. Apple brand shoelaces, probably ok; but apple brand anything electronic, no way. So the question is, would a regular consumer reasonably confuse MS trademarked UI to have some connection to the Metro AG? I wouldn't think so; but i don't know how German law works.
  • Of course, all of the above is in reference reference to common names/words used as trademark. As far as unique trademarked names, like Microsoft or Chevrolet, it would be infringement to use those unique names in any industry.
  • And of course metro is a common word.
  • It doesn't matter if they officially stop saying metro. Its a common word for Microsoft now, so they'll get the benefits even without referencing it
  • Metr0?  Problem solved?
  • Made me giggle.....
  • same here ^^
  • This will no doubt get sorted out soon; it would be a cause of grave concern that a company could take a generic term hostage like that.
  • Yup! Metro name is generic and anyone cah use it. How come no one is suing Metro Link?
  • Or Metro PCS.
  • You mean a generic term like 'apple' or 'windows'?
  • Gurl, we are all metro! I know I am lol...
  • Hahaha this is so ridiculous. They should just let Microsoft use the name.
  • They should just call it what it is: Sexy-Flippity-Squares
  • You forgot to add "UI" after that.
  • While I don't like them having to drop the desciptor, when I go to a cell company to buy Microsoft latest offering, I ask for a Windows phone, not a Metro phone. While we used the term metro frequently, we also used the following terms just as much: Windows Phone 7, WP7, Mango, Window phone 7.5, Apollo, and now Window phone 8 or WP8. I guess we just call the OS whatever the latest iteration is, Currently WP7, soon to be WP8.
  • Very true, it wasn't the OS name it was the experience. The problem I have is that the Xbox uses the Metro experience. Not the WP7/WP8/Windows 8 experience.
  • Metro stays for the designer among us... Metro design philosophy, fonts over pictures, clean, no chrome stuff, motion, strict guidelines thats metro design ph. It is true that you ask for a windows phone. But it is easier for developer and designer to use metro as a name for a style which is unique.
  • Agreed, but the law has spoken so I guess we'll have to like Elmer Fud and be "very very quite" when continuing to use the metro term in secret ;)
  • C'mon Microsoft you don't come up with too many good names so grow some balls and fight this becusae it's an unrelated industry and an easy win.
  • Yeah! C'mon Microsoft! Oh wait. . . Maybe we should eMail them instead of posting comments on a separate news site.
  • +1
  • Yes, lest go to war against the "german banhammer"!
  • Does that mean I can't rename my app Metro Music Studio as I was planning? Might still call it that anyway
  • :( What if they trademark "Metro UI" ? Would that work? C'mon. . .
  • I bet Metro AG runs on Macs !
  • Free apples for all Metro AG employees.
  • I think they're just trying to break away from the "label" of their design. Think about it...describe Android's UI, or iOS' UI. There is no description for them (aside from the obvious terribleness), they're known by name and not how they would be described. Now I do love the "Metro" description of it, but keep in mind they want to use their commercial name, not their labeled description.
  • Actually, maybe MS is getting away from the Metro moniker because MS wouldn't be able to obtain trademark for it as their UI, and that would open the door for others to use the name and profit on the hard work they have put into their awesome UI
  • And maybe Microsoft is tired of being sued by the European Commission all the time. You know they love to milk MS and no one else
  • Dumb. Just dumb.  This is why one of the judges in our federal court (name escapes me) suggested that its time to revisit trademark and patent law.  This is getting silly.
  • This isn't even in US jurisdiction.
  • Don't care what it's called. It's still the hotness
  • Meh. Metro UI is a great name. Still if they must change it then why not Surface UI?
  • Thats not a bad idea.
  • How about... DOS UI... Yeah!!!!
  • I can only hope there truly was a litigative reason and not because Microsoft wants to use the term "Windows" to describe their UI.  If it's the latter that would be pretty silly or else someone in MS thinks their new OS will be so good that they want it to be identified as a "Windows" product. It's still Metro to me.
  • Metro UI, Metro UI, Metro UI, Metro UI...I'm going to continue to refer it as Metro UI....so sue me.
  • I think Microsoft should just buy out this Metro AG, take the trademark, shut it down, and sell-off the remainder
  • Are you serious? I thought April fools was supposed to be in April...
  • Well don't forget that MS might be using fiscal months ;)
  • This makes me angry... I am so eff sick of this patent/trademark/copyright shiza. Boo whoo, you named something too close to my thing, even though we aren't even in the same business. Money troll trolls well today.
  • Someone needs to make them apple shoelaces, STAT!
  • http://www.zdnet.com/is-metro-now-a-banned-word-at-microsoft-7000002052/
    Updated article says it's not because patent.
  • Just call it W8 UI. Or pronounced Wait UI.
  • Waiting is not something Microsoft would want to associate with their user interface though.
  • We used to call W7 'Weven'.  So, I guess 'Weight' is not bad either.   But honesty, can't wait to get my hands on Wine ..
  • Metro is the name of a section of the Chicago tribune, they gonna get sued too? Everyone loves to pick on MS damn Nazis
  • I hater these MFers too, but these Euros have milked MS for millions, possibly billions over the years, so I understand them not wanting to payout anymore
  • "UNFUCKING BELIEVABLE" pardon my French I know this is a family oriented app :)
  • Swear words are blocked out on the site but not in the app.
  • xbox ui
    ಠ_ಠ
  • I'd definitely take that over "Windows 8 Styled UI"
  • Just call it "The New Windows Experience." Not sure why decided on Metro on the first place, I didn't think he had a positive connotation in the first place. No clue how Windows 8 - UI came to be because WP7 had it first?
  • when you look in the marketplace and you see metroradio, mertotube ect. i think thats why
  • Im happy they are changing it i hate metro name.
  • I'm a student of law in Sarajevo, and i had european law two semester last year, and some other about marketing laws and that what now happens in the world. Companies claim normal names or even letters to they own, but the problem with that is that is not moral. Think of the next situation a company claim USA in the whole world except in the USA as a trademark, a mark with which the company can trade, logicaly... How would then be the name of USA in europe if this company hold rights to that name. There is the failure, it can not happen. Metro ag the company can claim "metro ag" but not every seperate word "metro", "ag" facebook can do that because of the fact that nobody has before had a brand named facebook. But metro is a decription, a word for a specific desripction which can not be claimed. The laws of the EU sees that in the way. Just imagine if somebody can claim the word fresh or clean, so no producer of higienic products can trade in ads with these words. So a company can then claim all the "good" words for an article and other companies are prohibited not to use these words. How would they then describe they products??? Thats the fact why this is impossible or do you see beneath every metro word a TM sign? Thats the other fact, every trademark must have a TM simbol so that other know on the first site that is a trademark. But beneath metro i dont se never a TM... The third fact is if they can claim "METRO ag" the design language can be called "metro" with small letters, and the company that holds metro ag can nothing do about it. Look at google, they claimed "google" "Google" "g" and "G" but the two alone letters must be in a specific font and colour so they can claim this "letter" but its not an letter in the law its an logo. So i think microsoft used metro only in the production, and now they want a more "microsoft" name like windows phone UI or similar. Because mcsft has this strange names.
  • People should stop reading here. You make really valid points. Also this is a great thing for metro ag. Until tonight I had never heard of them.
  • Well perhaps its just to call off the dogs, metro ag obviously made a claim of some sort, and they're showing they don't really need the name metro
  • I think everyone is looking at this backwards. I don't think it's as much that Metro AG claims universal use, but that the metro branding is too generic in terms of design concept to be protected. I.E. Anyone could later develop an android skin based on MS's UI and call it metro design; allowing them to profit on MS's work. The branding is not unique in the design world. It's already common usage. MS needs a branding that is unique
  • How about Tile - UI, or LiveTile-UI? Anybody?
  • How about Suburb or Urban UI anyone?
  • Call the Zune UI.
  • "WinRT UI" anyone?
  • Just call it Modern, Immersive.
  • How about Windows Tiles?
  • I hope not...I can't imagine saying Windows Tile UI or Windows Tile App.
  • Moderno UI
  • Moderno UI
  • Horrible :P
  • hahaha. Microsoft stop pulling our leg. just tell us what ur intentions are!!
  • For those who get mad about copyright / trademark infringement: if a company doesn't have a history of defending itself, when someone does start trying to steal business from them, courts won't defend them. Metro AG is just protecting itself.
  • Doesn't matter as everyone will still call it Metro UI in the tech blogs, etc... MS might not be able to use it on their manual per say, but the "damage" is done and we all know it and will always know/ call it "Metro UI"
  • Who cares, people will still call it Metro.
  • When I first heard MS using "metro" I immediately thought it referred to "metrosexual". But then I thought it might've somehow been related to trains (as they are often called Metro's) or the UK newspaper with the same name. It was always a bit of a strange name to begin with... I can't say I'm sad to see it go :P
  • Call it "iTile" or "iTile UI" :P
  • I really thought "Metro" was a generic term!
  • Nonsence, metro station now can sues microsoft too ))))
  • Technically they shouldn't name it anything. Apple doesn't have a UI name, Adroid doesn't have one. As a matter of fact I don't recall any UI to have a name. WP8 should be good enough to describe the goodness of the UI. Fuck Metro, call it WindowsUI!
  • Do PCUI!
  • Let's call it the "Bold Ballmer" UI. >:)
  • It's always about the money for these bloodsucking leechers... I think I will patent the word "phone" and sue everybody. Oh wait. That makes me a bloodsucking leecher too...  :P
  • Just name it true UI ......
  • Flow UI
  • Chromeless UI
  • Matrix UI
  • Star UI,FLUID UI
  • Dumb, just dumb...
  • Why not shorten the word to MUI. Just like GUI. (Metro User Interface. Graphical User Interface.) And Microsoft already owns a patent for that (MUI) (multilingual user interface) and lets call it "mooey" a fun take on GUI, or "gooey."
  • Surface UI
  • Metro sounds like metrosexual :P
    At some point, someone forces us to pay everytime we want to drive, fly, whatever, since someone registered the word as trademark.
  • The ability to make a home screen to your own individual design, the name MOSAIC UI sounds better than metro, especially with the new tile sizes!
  • Halo UI sounds better
  • Just name it the "Surface UI" or "Live UI" as it does hold true to the name with the live tiles and surface products.
  • I'd be good with either of those for sure.
  • Everyone is trying to rain on the parade these days, they're all just jealous. :-)
  • Maybe they should call it Metrosoft UI
  • Tile-Style UI
  • New name thoughts: Swipe, Stream, City, Laser, River...
  • i saw Transit UI in the comments i like that one
    Connect UI- idk since your always connected to whats most important
    Flow UI
     
     
     
  • You have to see that Metro AG is one if not the biggest wholesaler in Europe. They are extremely important for MS when it comes to introducing windows 8 in Europe. So this might be the reason for MS to stop using the term. In addition, metro ag has very aggressive and successful lawyers
  • How about calling it the  8-UI.  As in:
    Windows Phone 8 UI                   What it is
    Eight-ball                                        Game flavor
    Third power of two                        High Tech, futureistic
    Number of corners on a cube    Solid
     
    It's short 
    We could just do it without worr ying what Microsoft calls it.
  • anyone want to start a big email spamming Metro AG for this behaviour? the word Metro is used all over the place, this sounded like Donald trump trying to trademark the phrase "you are fired"
     
    and if im right, the trade mark "Metro AG" is just that "Metro AG", if they had went MetroAG/MetroA G or some variant of that then it might have made sense, but saying Metro UI is easily confused with Metro AG then it sounded like Urban Planet and Urban Behaviour can sue each other... (they are both clothing stores..)
     
    oh and I just remembered another example, Pink Panther Salon! (if you've taken business law, you've probably heard of this)
  • Well being that Microsoft is taking everything this direction UI wise, why not just call it MSUI or MSX (MS Experience)?  I mean it's not like it's really referenced anywhere or used regularly by customers.  They talk about the brand names (Windows, Xbox, Outlook, Office, etc.) not UI style names and such.  Since MS is going all in with this design language they can just simply call it MSUI, MSX, or something equally simple that reflects their general use of it across their products.  It's on their web sites, apps, etc. not just devices now.
  • OK, i now officially apologize for the behaviour of this company in the name of all Germans :-)
    PS: remember "scrolls" between mojang and zenimax ... same stupid thing
  • My suggestion is simply, "Lateral" or "Lateralis"
    Reason, it's all to do with sides.
    You move the screens laterally from side to side in your navigation.
    Squares have sides!
    any thoughts.....