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?

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Comments on “Apple Trademarks Apple Store Interior Design”

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39 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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….)

DannyB (profile) says:

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?

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Ninja (profile) says:

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.

Capt ICE Enforcer says:

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.

G Thompson (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 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”

Anonymous Coward says:

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?

alanbleiweiss (profile) says:

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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