Apple Trademarks Apple Store Interior Design

from the oh-for-the-love-of-god dept

Remember when Conan O'Brien joked around with Samsung about their copying the Apple Store look...only for Samsung to open up a store that looked an awful lot like an Apple Store in Australia. Well, that kind of thing ain't going to fly anymore, folks, now that the USPTO has granted Apple a trademark on the design of their retail stores.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple's request last week for trademarks on the minimalist design and layout of its retail outlets, the office's records show. The description of the trademarks includes "a clear glass storefront surrounded by a paneled facade" and, within the store, an "oblong table with stools...set below video screens flush mounted on the back wall."
Yup, Apple trademarked a retail store with a glass storefront and tables with stools. Truthfully, the trademark is a tad more detailed than that and there is some precedent for this kind of trade dress claim. The article notes the 1992 case in which a Mexican food chain was granted protection for it's interior design. The thing is, all of this revolves around customer confusion, and I'd think that such designs would have to err on the side of the super-specific if it's going to be granted a trade dress mark. Considering the a central part of this mark is for "minimalist design", i.e. not having stuff, that seems problematic. 
"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 said.
It's not difficult to envision companies with some flavor of a glass facade, stools and tables, and some large panel displays up in their retail store that have nothing to do with trying to copy Apple's atmosphere. Are those types of retail stores now facing trademark suits?



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Canadian, Jan 30th, 2013 @ 1:49pm

    Maybe Apple should trademark being corporate assholes.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2013 @ 1:57pm

    Even if we were looking at this from a IP maximalist perspective, wouldn't this more appropriately fall under the realm of a design patent? Even that sounds insane, but at least patents expire in a (sort of) reasonable amount of time.

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Jan 30th, 2013 @ 1:58pm

    First apple patents round corners, now they copyright the lunchroom, what is next, the circle or the square?

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2013 @ 8:54am

      Re:

      I'm sorry to inform you that a circle can look much like an apple to the 'uninformed' therefore all circles also belong to apple...

      If you are using circles in your design, product, or anywhere else for that matter, we will be filing the appropriate charges. We've had our 'moron in a hurry' review your use of circles, and he thought that it looked like our apple, so....

      And that's the rest of the story....
      (I'll expect to be hearing from the current 'owners' of Paul Harvey's IP to be contacting me anytime now....)

       

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    DannyB (profile), Jan 30th, 2013 @ 1:58pm

    Microsoft trademarks its stores. So there.

    Microsoft trademarks its stores. So there.

    I'm sure Apple must be trembling in their boots with fear.

    The Microsoft stores don't have "Geniuses", they have "Smart Guys" who have no product knowledge. Plus their shirts are a slightly different shade of blue.

    Plus Apple stores are crowded. Microsoft stores are empty.

    So how could a Microsoft store be an infringement of an Apple store, or vice versa?

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Jan 30th, 2013 @ 2:01pm

    oops sorry ,,, trademark

    First apple patents round corners, now they trademark the lunchroom, what is next, the circle or the square?

     

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    •  
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      G Thompson (profile), Jan 31st, 2013 @ 5:19am

      Re: oops sorry ,,, trademark

      They will most likely now try to trademark the carbon atom since basically everything uses it and then once they own it they will be able to be absolute innovators..

      Well in the USA anyway *snorts*

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2013 @ 2:13pm

    Trade dress

    Trade dress is an insane concept. Look at the fucking logo. If it doesn't say Apple, it isn't an Apple device.

     

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      identicon
      PRMan, Jan 30th, 2013 @ 2:38pm

      Re: Trade dress

      What about those Chinese knockoffs that say "AppIe". If everything else looks identical, the customer could legitimately confused. But Trademark should handle that.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2013 @ 3:09pm

        Re: Re: Trade dress

        Agreed, from what I understand. They went this route because a Chinese apple store knock-off. If they were selling fake apples in a fake apple store the could have just claimed infringement on the merchandise they were selling and disregard the venue. But, given the nature of apple are we really surprised?

         

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2013 @ 2:13pm

    Trade dress

    Trade dress is an insane concept. Look at the fucking logo. If it doesn't say Apple, it isn't an Apple device.

     

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    identicon
    Leobaoig, Jan 30th, 2013 @ 3:18pm

    Jesus is crying

    So irritating watching these types of design patents get successfully pushed through. It's like watching my freedom of expression slowly widdled away by assholes who are just outside of the reach of my fists.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Leobaoig, Jan 30th, 2013 @ 3:18pm

    Jesus is crying

    So irritating watching these types of design patents get successfully pushed through. It's like watching my freedom of expression slowly widdled away by assholes who are just outside of the reach of my fists.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2013 @ 3:22pm

    How dumb do you have to be?

    How dumb do you have to be to walk into a Samsung Store with Samsung's products and logos all over the place and be CONFUSED enough to think you were in an Apple store? Furthermore, this speaks volumes about how the government views the people. To issue such a trademark on such a silly thing is to say that they believe that the general public IS dumb enough that they would be confused to the point that this is a major problem. Frankly, I find this sort of thing rather insulting.

     

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      identicon
      Michael, Jan 31st, 2013 @ 4:52am

      Re: How dumb do you have to be?

      I could see accidentally walking into a Samsung store and spending hundreds of dollars less for a better product.

      Oops.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2013 @ 4:18pm

    Hey, at least it's not a patent

    This is a fairly silly move, but at least they're going via trademark rather than via patent. For one thing, the trademark will only apply to companies in the same business as Apple; for a second thing, the standards for infringement are much higher.

     

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      Ninja (profile), Jan 31st, 2013 @ 3:48am

      Re: Hey, at least it's not a patent

      For one thing, the trademark will only apply to companies in the same business as Apple

      Samsung can copy Apple Store and put some air conditioning equipment, TVs and other stuff Apple doesn't sell and when Apple goes after them they can put up their troll faces and say nobody can possibly confuse one with another because apple only sells ishit. I mean, igadgets.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2013 @ 4:42pm

    If one is inclined to rail about the grant of a trademark, then at the very least he/she should review the actual trademark document and associated application documents. Rail if you must, but try and do so with background information pertinent to the rail:

    http://tsdr.uspto.gov/#caseNumber=85036990&caseType=SERIAL_NO&searchType=statusSear ch

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, Jan 30th, 2013 @ 5:49pm

    A Sign

    If only Apple would invent the Isign. You know something that they could put in front of their store, say a Large sign that says Apple. Then there would not be confusion. But heck, what do I know. Hmmm, Maybe I could patent the Isign and lease a contract for them. Then I could trademark the outside of a store with walls/or no walls with and score big. Oh yeah. Billionaire lifestyle here I come.

     

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    G Thompson (profile), Jan 30th, 2013 @ 8:24pm

    No one has pointed out the obvious stupidity of this if they thought it would stop the Samsung store that allegedly "copied/stole" Apple's store design in Australia.

    This trademark is USA only, it is not viable nor applicable anywhere else in the World other than the USA and will absolutely not effect Samsung or any other competitor in the markets where Apple is not #1 (nor in the top 2 actually) of phone/tablet sales.

    So the USPTO can trademark the freakin moon if they want, it means diddly squat (or even less) in the REAL world outside of the USA.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2013 @ 9:25pm

      Re:

      I am not familiar with Apple's practices concerning international prosecution of rights prosecuted in the US, but in my experience it is quite common for a company to file applications for patents and trademarks in multiple countries. Thus, it is possible that Apple may have a corresponding trademark application pending in AU.

       

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        G Thompson (profile), Jan 30th, 2013 @ 11:09pm

        Re: Re:

        Apple's practices concerning international prosecution of rights prosecuted in the US in regards to Trademarks are the same as every others persons ability to take action under trademark law - NOTHING. Trademarks are specific to each jurisdiction ONLY and are not valid in any other.

        Apple after a search do not have any pending, refused, registered or otherwise marks in regards to this trade dress (or gestalt) situation within Australia. Though this could be that Trade Dress is not normally allowed within Australia other than for highly specific marks is highly unlikely, especially after the recent Mars Australia Pty Ltd v Sweet Rewards Pty Ltd [2009] FCA 60 finding.

         

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2013 @ 4:23am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Perhaps they were going to see if they could get it through iin the US first and now that they were successful they will try it other places. Also, I suspect the US is their largest market and since Samsung opened their store in another market they wanted to get this in before Samsung could start opening themin the US.

           

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            G Thompson (profile), Jan 31st, 2013 @ 5:15am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Not really, Trade dress is mostly a strange US trademark thing.. Yes India and the UK have similar systems for gestalt in place they are not the same.

            And Trademarks can be successful in one jurisdiction (country) and not others it just depends on the countries different trademark laws, what they classify as actual marks and whether it could actually have a negative effect on consumers.. The US trademark system in this respect treats consumers like they aren't even morons in a hurry but instead idiots who could not distinguish a world famous organisations owned shop from another.

            As for the US being the largest market, Apple wishes this was so since they are #1 in the USA on smartphones and tablets, though being that the USA is only approx 15-25% of their (Apple's) actual worldwide market this has no meaning especially when Samsung on the other hand are the #1 seller Worldwide outside of the USA followed by HTC, Nokia and Huawei with Apple as #5.

            Basically this whole thing is for Apple to turn around and say..

            "look we have a store design (not dissimilar to rounded corners) that we own and can stop competitors on pain of legal court costs from even thinking about using...aren't we awesome and petulant and basically showing how scared we actually are of any competition and that our worshippers might wake up and smell the Android/Windows"

             

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    alanbleiweiss (profile), Jan 30th, 2013 @ 11:06pm

    Holy Crap

    One more feather in the USPTO's asshat cap. There are so many retail stores out there, have been there, were there long before Apple's with a design and layout that entirely or nearly entirely matches that description... So is Apple going to sue clothing retailers all over the world? Or just use this to leverage Samsung in that ongoing IP mess?

    Truly tired of the hacks at the USPTO. What complete idiots, sucking up taxpayer money on shear stupidity.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Jan 31st, 2013 @ 2:40am

    Wait a darn second! What if Samsung copies Apple Store without the round corners?

     

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    Isaac Kotlicky (profile), Jan 31st, 2013 @ 6:27am

    Hmmmn... Glass front... minimalist... long table with stools... and a wall mounted video display...

    So... every modernist design bar with a TV is now infringing on Apple's "trade dress?"

     

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    identicon
    Colin, Jan 31st, 2013 @ 8:56am

    Shame there's no Genius to fix Apple's humans.

    Fun game: go down this list and surmise which cognitive bias this is an example of. I got Loss Aversion, but there's more.

     

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