Known for aggressively defending their Intellectual Property, Apple has now secured US trademark protection for the design and layout of their retail stores, increasing their trademark portfolio whilst also deterring copycats from mimicking their distinctive and simplistic design.
Although it may not seem like a conventional trademark to many, the above design and layout has been approved by the United States Patents and Trademark office (USPTO), after a three year long battle and a 681 page document submitted by Apple showing evidence of acquired distinctiveness dating back to 2006. As such, the simplistic design and store layout has been found to be capable of functioning as a trademark given that consumers can identify the owner of the retail outlet.
The trademark registration that has been granted to Apple gives them the exclusive rights in the US in relation to a computer retail outlet. Specifically, to an “all clear glass storefront” with rectangle tables arranged in the middle of the room and a service desk to the rear, all with recessed lighting units.
The scope of the registration is intended to be broad enough to ensure that no other party attempts to copy or mimic the unique concept that Apple has developed.
The commercial value of the registration to Apple can be illustrated by reference to the marketplace in China. Here, in a store located in Kunmig, China unauthorised retailers were not only attempting to sell copies of genuine Apple products, but they had also mimicked the layout of the store. The extent of the copying was profound and down to very last detail, including convincing the employees that they were in fact working at a genuine Apple store.
Although the trademark protection that Apple have obtained in the US may prove to be effective there, it cannot be determined how easily they will be able to establish similar registered rights elsewhere. Apple are expected to take advantage of the Madrid Protocol to obtain international trademark protection based on their US rights.
In the meantime, the registration is likely to act as a real deterrent for anyone setting up a retail store, specialising in computers. Put simply, anyone thinking of doing so would be encouraged to think carefully about how their tables are positioned and the amount of clear glass used in the storefront. Coincidently the description of the Apple trademark appears to apply to most high street stores to some extent. In this regard, both practitioners and marketers alike are keen to await the first “test case” to determine how close a competitor can can come to the registration without infringing it, and when use will be deemed to be confusingly similar.
Interested in learning more about non-traditional trade marks….talk to the team at Albright IP.
The trade mark attorneys at Albright IP will be able to advise you on all matters of trademark protection and enforcement, ensuring you obtain the broadest scope of protection for your brand. Simply fill out the contact form on the left hand side of this page. Alternatively, give us a call.