Apple products have come to be recognized for their simplicity and clean feel and look, whether it be hardware; iPhone or the iPad, or software; iOS and OS X. In fact, this same design philosophy extends further than its products, to its retail outlets as well, of which 250 exist in the United States and another dozen or so in other countries. We have read quite a few stories about Apple inaugurating extravagant retail spaces in important locations and most of us now know how an Apple brick and mortar store looks like, thanks to ample media coverage. But are these stores really unique and thus qualify to be protected with a patent. Apple certainly thinks so and has thus trademarked its retail outlet design with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The description in the trademark certificate is as follows:
“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.”
In recent months Apple has also become infamous due to the numerous patent battles it has been fighting with its rivals such as Samsung and taking that into consideration some us might feel Apple is obsessed with patenting anything and everything it can. However, Apple does have a valid reason for trademarking its store design. These stores have come to be universally associated with Apple, so much so that if someone not associated with Apple decides to sell to Apple products in a retail outlet that looks exactly like Apple’s, no one will suspect. This is exactly what happened in China last year when a fake Apple Stores surfaced in Kunming, China. The store featured the same square wooden tables, glass trims and even White Apple logos. Even those working in the store were not aware that the store was not an authentic Apple store. The fake Chinese Apple store and some others were later shut down by the authorities, but it explains why a trademark would be required.
By trademarking its retail outlet design Apple has ensured that fake stores do not come up in the U.S. It also means other companies in the U.S have to make sure they do not infringe upon Apple design patents when designing their own stores, if the do not want to get themselves entangled in legal battles with Apple.