Apple trade marks the look of its stores in the EU
Its not just words and symbols that can be trademarked, retail store layouts capable of trade mark protection, according to the EU Court of Justice
Apple is probably the best known firm to have registered the look of their stores, as well as devices. With US trade mark in relation to a three-dimensional trade mark, consisting of the representation of a store layout, for Class 35 services, namely, ‘retail store services featuring computers, computer software, computer peripherals, mobile phones, consumer electronics and related accessories and demonstrations of products relating thereto’:
Apple has subsequently sought to extend this trade mark internationally under the Madrid Agreement and this extension has been accepted in some member states but was refused in others, including Germany. Here it was refused on the grounds that it was only a representation of an essential aspect of that undertaking’s business and that consumers would not see it as an indication of their commercial origin. The German Trade Marks Office also considered that the retail store depicted was not sufficiently distinguishable from the stores of other providers of electronic goods.
An appeal was filed by Apple against this decision and the European Court of Justice was asked by the German court to answer certain legal questions in order to clarify this matter.
The European Court of Justice held that
“the representation, by a design alone, without indicating the size or the proportions, of the layout of a retail store, may be registered as a trade mark for services consisting in services relating to those goods but which do not form an integral part of the offer for sale thereof, provided that the sign is capable of distinguishing the services of the applicant for registration from those of other undertakings; … “.