Top EU court rules Apple can trademark its store layouts

Apple can trademark its distinctive store layouts in the EU

Apple has secured a notable ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that the iconic layout of it stores can be trademarked, in a move that could force rival firms with similar stores to rearrange their wares to avoid legal spats.

Apple first secured a trademark for its store layouts in the US in 2010. It then attempted to gain similar status in Europe. However, the German Patent and Trade Mark Office rejected the submission, claiming it was not worthy of a trademark, forcing Apple to take its case to a higher authority.

Apple store layout trademark submissionsThe ECJ has now sided with Apple, agreeing that the layout of an Apple store (left) is enough of a distinctive feature for a company to be granted a trademark.

“The Court concludes that the representation of the layout of a retail store, by a design alone, without indicating the size or the proportions, may be registered as a trademark,” the judgment read.

The ECJ said it reached this conclusion as the stores covered three key areas required for a trademark: “It must (1) constitute a sign, (2) be capable of graphic representation and (3) be capable of distinguishing the ‘goods’ or ‘services’ of one undertaking [company] from those of other undertakings.”

V3 contacted Apple for comment on the decision but had received no reply at the time of publication.

The ruling could well have some major implications for other firms in the tech sector, as numerous companies – from mobile operators to other handset vendors, notably Samsung – have mimicked Apple’s style for their retail outlets.

As such, they could face legal challenges from Apple if the firm decides a rival is benefiting in the market by copying Apple’s store layouts. Apple’s long-time sparring partner Samsung could well be the first to face a legal challenge.

V3 contacted Samsung for a comment on the decision but had not received a reply at the time of publication.

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