Apple's Retail Store Design is Now a Registerable Trademark in Germany

Apple is famous, or maybe infamous, for its comprehensive approach to IP protection. One of the latest victories for the computer giant comes out of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). On July 10, 2014, the CJEU issued a preliminary ruling that a distinctive store layout may be registered as a protected trademark with the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA).


Procedural History

The procedural history of this ruling takes us back across the pond. Apple has had a U.S. trademark for its store design since January, 2013. Looking to extend that protection to Europe, Apple filed for international trademark protection with the DPMA. The DPMA denied Apple’s extension of its international trademark and Apple appealed. The case was escalated by the German Federal Patent Court, which has the final say on EU law.

German Federal Patent Court Grants Apple’s Store Design Trademark

The court laid out the three requirements for trademark protection: (1) the mark must be a sign; (2) that sign must be capable of graphic representation; and (3) the sign must be capable of distinguishing the ‘goods’ or ‘services’ of one undertaking from those of other undertakings. See Judgment in Apple Inc. v Deutsches Patent- und Markenamt, C-421/13, paragraph 17 [10 July 2014]. Concluding that Apple’s store design trademark met all three requirements, the court stated:

[T]he 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 . . . provided that the sign is capable of distinguishing the services of the applicant for registration from those of other undertakings[.]

Id. at paragraph 27.

Protected Elements

Many of the design elements both on the outside of the store and the inside of the store are protected under Apple’s mark, including the all-glass exterior of the store design, the shape of the building (i.e., a cube or a cylinder), the interior layout of the shelves and tables, its recessed lighting, and even the colors steel grey, light brown and black. See Registration No. 85036990 and Registration No. 85036986.

Keeping Tabs on Apple

Keep track of the Apple’s ever-growing docket of IP cases with Docket Alarm’s email alerts. Use Docket Alarm’s Federal Court Case Alert Tool to get all new case alerts. Type “Apple” into the search bar and select Trademark as part of the nature of suit to view a comprehensive list of Apple dockets. Select the “Get New Lawsuit Alerts!” button to receive an alert every time there is a new docket or update. 

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