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EU court says Apple may seek to trademark its store layout

Apple’s attempts to trademark its store layout hit a snag in Germany recently when the patent office denied the company’s application. However, the highest court in the European Union has ruled that Apple may proceed with its challenge to the decision on appeal.

Here in the United States, the California-based electronics giant has already registered a trademark for the design of its stores. The three-dimensional trademark prevents other companies from copying the Apple Store’s overall look, including its furniture, lighting, fixtures and shelves, as well as its popular “Genius Bar” customer service presentation.

Regardless of the outcome of the appeal in Germany, the case illustrates the important point that protecting a company’s intellectual property involves far more than preventing others from copying its name, logo or slogan.

Many companies today invest a great deal of time, money and effort into creating physical spaces that convey a signature look and feel, right down to the smallest detail. The more successful these efforts, the more likely it is that competitors will try to profit by copying the signature branding and presentation meant to distinguish that company’s products from others in the marketplace.

In addition to the store layout trademark case, Apple has also been involved in a number of other efforts to enforce its intellectual property rights against potential infringement. Most notably, Apple has repeatedly sued electronics manufacturer Samsung for “slavishly copying” its devices. Before his death, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs contended that Samsung’s Galaxy smartphone was essentially a copy of the iPhone. 

Source: Bloomberg, “Apple Can Try to Trademark Store Layout, EU Court Says,” Aoife White, July 10, 2014

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