According to recent reports, the European Court of Justice has ruled that Apple will now be allowed to register the layouts of its Apple Retail Stores as trademarks in Europe’s member states, adding to Apple's worldwide list of intellectual property rights.
Apple had already earned approval from the United States government to trademark its store's layout in January last year, to set in motion the move to seek approval and trademark security in Europe. Before the ruling in Europe, Germany had rejected the company’s efforts to secure a trademark for one of its German-based retail stores, claiming that it was not legal under EU law.
Apple took that decision to higher courts to determine legality for the intellectual property claim, in which the case was referred to the European Union's highest court for EU law, European Court of Justice for the decision. "From this the Court concludes that the representation of the layout of a retail store, by a design alone, without indicating the size or the proportions, may be registered as a trade mark for services," the court said in its judgment finalizing Apple's dominance in brand ownership.
The court suggested that the uniqueness of a design must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis in which competing stores and shifting expectations of shoppers are taken into consideration. It is now in the hands of the German national court to rule on Apple's individual case now, which is in line with the EU court opinion.
Thursday’s decision to be able to register for trademarks in European countries is a positive signal for Apple to pursue efforts to strengthen a worldwide brand and its style. It stores have become ubiquitous around the world, with regard to its wide presence in shopping malls. There are even shops in China that replicate Apple stores that sell fake Apple products and services. While a few of those fake Apple Stores were closed down, others were renamed to Smart Store. It would be interesting to see if Apple will try getting a trademark for their Apple Stores in China.
The Cupertino based company is also apparently expanding its retail business around the world. It reportedly moved into the Chinese markets and succeeded and if rumours are to be believed Apple is building another store in Scotland, which is speculated to be large.
The stores in the US have already secured patents for features that include massive glass storefront, glass staircases, multi-tiered shelving along the back walls, rectangular recessed lights and oblong tables with stools located at the rear of the store.