You have heard of trade marks, patents and copyright all at one point or another in the news and it seems most of the time it comes from the tech giant Apple.
Apple really seem to stretch the limitation of trade mark, patent and copyright law when it comes to their business plan. And with this most recent approval they are following that trend; trademarking the design and layout of Apples flagship stores.
Trade marks are recognizable signs, designs or expressions which identify goods or services of a particular source from others. You can trademark, words, logos, sounds and 3D images... which extends to architectual designs...
The description of Apples store trade mark seems so generic that it's unbelievable they have managed to register it.
“…a primarily glass storefront, rectangular recessed lighting traversing the length of the store’s ceiling, Cantilevered shelving and recessed display spaces along the front side walls, rectangular tables arranged in a line in the middle of the store parallel to the walls and extending from the storefront to the back of the store, multi-tiered shelving along the rear walls, and an oblong table with stools located at the back of the store below video screens in the back wall.”
They have specified the design as much as possible, having been rejected twice already since may 2010. But in essence without all the hoopla language it boils down to, A glass store front with rectangular tables set in a row with recessed shelves to sell electronic goods from.
Well, there is also an architectual layout sketch as well... just to clear things up.
Now don't get me wrong there is definitely an Apple feel to the stores they use with their simplistic minimalist designs echoing their products and design strategy. But as trademarks go, i'm not sure this is distinctive enough to warrant registration and points to a slightly broken system where big businesses and names can pretty much get away with what they like.
If you want to see some other ridiculous trademark applications take a look here:
Now, Apple isn't the first to trade mark store layout/deigns. Microsoft, yes another tech giant, trademarked their retail stores back in 2011.
Although their design is pretty similar to Apples just a little more simplified...
“…three-dimensional trade dress depicting the interior of a retail store with four curved tabletops at the front and rear side walls and a rectangular band displaying changing video images on the walls.”
Do you think that is distinctive enough? You might ask what the point of all this is. Why trad emark your store design anyway?
Well, Apple claims this is to protect them from counterfeit stores in China which have always been a problem. Everyone knows China is famous for their counterfeit/fake goods and disregard for trademarks. But registering the shop's trad emark in the US doesn't protect Apple from the stores in China... Since trade marks are territorial.
That being said Apple have applied for the trade mark in 19 other countries including China, Russia, Turkey and several Euro countries, so they are obviously planning on enforcing the mark.
So whats next for Apple? For a company that has manged to trade mark the leaf and patent the rectangle, you can bet it will be something equally outrageous.