Retail Store Design Can Be Among Apple’s Trademarks, EU Court Decides

Apple (AAPL) can now apply to trademark its retail store design in Germany. The European Union’s top court said on Thursday that the iPhone maker can register an image of its store layout as a trademark with the German Patent and Trademark Office. Apple’s first application was refused by that office for including only a representation of the layout with no indication of the size or proportions of the store. The EU court’s decision is valid throughout the 28 EU member states.

As Microsoft and additional competitors spruce up their retail outlets, Apple wants to make sure consumers will always identify its shops as Apple outlets, no matter where in the world they are. The computer company’s store design received patent protection in the U.S. in January 2013.

“I see it more as a victory for Apple than anything else at this point,” says Geert Glas, a lawyer in Brussels who heads the international intellectual property practice at the law firm Allen & Overy. “The court is saying, ‘Yes, the layout of your store can be your trademark, or some of your trademarks.’” Glas described the court’s interpretation as “quite trendsetting” for Europe.

Here are some of the protected design elements of Apple’s U.S. stores, based on filings with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office:

Courtesy Apple, Inc.

Layout of shelves and tables: “There are cantilevered shelves below recessed display spaces along the side walls, and rectangular tables arranged in a line in the middle of the store parallel to the walls and extending from the storefront to the back of the store. There is multi-tiered shelving along the side walls, and a oblong table with stools located at the back of the store, set below video screens flush mounted on the back wall.”

Color: “The color(s) steel gray, light brown and black is/are claimed as a feature of the mark.”

Courtesy Apple, Inc.

Courtesy Apple, Inc.

Glass exterior: “The store features a clear glass storefront surrounded by a paneled facade consisting of large, rectangular horizontal panels over the top of the glass front, and two narrower panels stacked on either side of the storefront.”

Shape of building (Cube): “The mark consists of the distinctive design and layout of a retail store comprised of a cube-shaped building constructed almost exclusively of transparent glass, with transparent glass walls and roof, transparent glass double doors and a transparent glass awning and featuring a pendant of an apple with a bite removed suspended from the ceiling.”

Shape of building (Cylinder): “A building panel and a building formed therefrom, where the building includes a plurality of building panels arranged to form a cylindrical shape.” Apple uses this design in its Shanghai store.

Stairs: Apple also has a design patent on its glass staircase that lists co-founder Steve Jobs among the inventors.

Lighting: “Within the store, rectangular recessed lighting units traverse the length of the store’s ceiling.”

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