Apple’s iconic retail stores are now trademarked in Europe

Apple Store at NYC's 5th Ave. (Photo by Phil Photostream - http://flic.kr/p/8S9RCu)

Apple Store at NYC’s 5th Ave. (Photo by Phil Photostream – http://flic.kr/p/8S9RCu)

Remember back in the early 2000s when Apple opening a brick-and-mortar store in prime real estate locations seemed as crazy a gamble as Apple deciding to create its own mobile phone? Very few people would admit so now — particularly Apple’s rivals like Samsung and Microsoft which have followed the Apple Store example with their own surprisingly similar retail outfits.

In an attempt to stop others from copying the slick, high fashion minimalism of its Apple Stores, Apple has secured a court ruling allowing it to register the layout of its retail stores in the European Union as a trade mark — extending the intellectual property status that it already carries in the U.S.

According to the EU’s top court, which made its ruling on Thursday, Apple’s brick-and-mortar stores fit the three criteria necessary for a trademark to be issued: they constitute a sign, can be represented in a graphic, and can distinguish the goods or services from those sold or provided by other companies.

While it’s pretty clear to most people that Apple’s retail stores were different to most tech stores when they came along, Apple had previously struggled to be granted a patent for the layout in Germany, with the country claiming that it is impossible to trademark the layout of a shop on its own.

Apple followed this by taking the decision to court, which resulted in the case being passed to the European Court of Justice for a verdict, which was issued as described today.

In theory this should stop other companies from “borrowing” Apple’s preference for airy, well-lit stores displaying products on open table-tops.

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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