Apple's retail store design — including details of the storefront, the shelves, the arrangement of the tables and the position of the products — last week was granted a trademark from the U.S Patent and Trademark Office.
The trademark covers Apple's "clear glass storefront" design, including their "large, rectangular horizontal panels over the top of the glass front." It also covers the store's interior furniture and fixtures including — specifically, "rectangular tables arranged in a line" as well as the floors, lighting and shelves. The store's "Genius Bar" was also included.
"There is multi-tiered shelving along the side walls, and a[n] oblong table with stools located at the back of the store, set below video screens flush mounted on the back wall," the trademark description reads.
Apple originally applied for the trademark in 2010 but was rejected twice before finally being approved, according to ifoAppleStore.com.
The patents provide some protection from copycat retailers. Several reports assumed the motivation was driven by numerous fake Apple stores surfacing in China in recent years. Trademark rights do not extend outside the U.S., but companies that file for domestic protection often seek similar protection elsewhere. The U.S. trademark indicated Apple was seeking similar trademark protection in 19 other countries, including China, Russia, Turkey and several Euro countries.
Some reports also noted that while the first Apple store opened in 2001, only in recent years have rivals Microsoft and Sony begun opening similar stores of their own.
In any challenge, Apple would have to prove that consumers are confusing the alleged copycat stores for theirs.
"The million dollar question in this instance, as in pretty much all trade dress cases, is just how close a competitor can come to the design without infringing," Christopher Sprigman, a University of Virginia law professor and the co-author of the book, The Knockoff Economy, told Reuters.
Apple has not responded to questions surrounding the trademark.
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