Apple gets trademark for the design and layout of its retail stores

applestore

When Apple tried to trademark their stores, the US Patent and Trademark Office rejected their request twice on the grounds that the design was not “inherently distinctive.” The company fired back with a 122-page document filled with customer surveys and photos of the stores to argue their case. That seemed to convince the USPTO, as they have now approved Apple’s trademark for their storefronts.

Putting aside the fact that there’s usually a giant apple hanging over them, Apple’s retail stores are pretty distinctive: covered in glass, and lined with numerous tables where you can walk up and try all their devices. No wonder other companies, like Microsoft and Samsung, have been accused of “borrowing” from Apple Stores. The question, however, is are the designs used by Apple uniquely theirs or are the designs just an application of common design principles, something that cannot be patented? Apparently Apple and USPTO think the latter.

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Apple’s glass staircases like the one above are already protected through a design patent. This latest trademark covers the lined rectangular tables, paneled glass facade, and recessed lighting units. The Verge notes that if a company now designs a store that consumers confuse for an Apple store, they could be liable for trade dress infringement.

What do you think of Apple trademarking its store designs? Tell us in the comments!

[via USPTOReuters, The Verge]

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10 comments

  1. thegreenwizard

    Can I trademark my working space:
    a desk, a PC with 2 screens, and a office chair in front of it. Oh! I forgot, and a coaster for my coffee cup.
    Somebody know a lawyer to do it, we may get a lot of money back for it.

  2. Mike

    @Enrique:

    “The question, however, is are the designs used by Apple uniquely theirs or are the designs just an application of common design principles, something that cannot be patented? Apparently Apple and USPTO think the latter.”

    I think you mean, “think the former” and not “the latter”? As well as, “that cannot be registered as a trademark” rather than “that cannot be patented”?

  3. Mike

    Just a clarification:

    In the U.S., you automatically get trademark protection (to the extent applicable) through use. Apple had that. You can enhance that protection, and get further protection, through registering your trademark with the government–that’s what Apple did here.

    Also, note that with a trademark, and unlike with a patent, you can’t automatically stop someone from using the trademark or something similar–you have to prove that there is a “likelihood of confusion” with, or a “dilution” to, the Apple trademark. And along the way at court, the defendant will have a chance to prove that Apple never should have been granted the trademark registration to begin with, including because the trademark is generic in form. These factors likely will determine how broad Apple’s rights really are. But, once again, Apple is warning its competitors, don’t get too close to our look . . . .

    Query if Apple should have been granted these rights. What if the first department store had registered a trademark for a building floor with display cases and racks of clothes?

  4. Herb

    Absolutely Ridiculous! Although, now that I think of it, Apple owns the basic rectangle shape anyway, so I guess this is something any sensible person would have expected. Why shouldn’t Apple be able to extend their earlier design win to include rectangular tables and windows? And wait! The US flag is rectangular, isn’t it? I wonder how long it will be…….

  5. Seamus McSeamus

    The patent covers “lined rectangular tables, paneled glass facade, and recessed lighting units”? This seems pretty broad, to me. You can find those design elements in just about every mall in America. I have recessed lighting in my home office… do I need to hire a lawyer now to fight the inevitable lawsuit?