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Apple Granted Trademark For Its Stores 272

Posted by Soulskill
from the we-invented-the-rectangular-prism dept.
walterbyrd sends this news from ZDNet: "The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office approved Apple's request to trademark the design and layout of its stores last week, according to patent office records. ... Apple has requested that no store be allowed to replicate various features, including 'a clear glass storefront surrounded by a panelled facade' or an 'oblong table with stools... set below video screens flush mounted on the back wall.'"
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Apple Granted Trademark For Its Stores

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  • I imagine.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mark-t (151149) <markt&lynx,bc,ca> on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @07:18PM (#42744121) Journal

    ... that if Apple had thought of trying this idea of patenting or trademarking their look 30 years ago, their lawsuit against Microsoft for copying their look and feel could have gone very differently.

    At least you can't say that Apple doesn't learn from their own mistakes.

    • by Eskarel (565631)

      Except that's not the lesson Apple needed to learn. Apple copyrighted all their design elements, they just then went and legally licensed [wikipedia.org] them to Microsoft and got a bit upset when Windows didn't turn out to be a cheap knock off of their idea no one would want to buy. Patents wouldn't have helped a bit in this instance because they actually gave Microsoft a license.

      As to this case specifically, it sort of depends on how it eventually gets granted, but it appears that Apple is overreaching by a reasonable m

  • That's a whole load of coffee shops going to have to close then.
    • by Spectre (1685)

      Note that coffee shops are not in the same "trade" as an Apple store, so they are not impacted.

      Now, if Apple had requested a servicemark instead of a trademark, that would be a different story ... but a service mark is much harder to get.

    • by tricorn (199664)

      I've never seen a coffee shop that would be confused with an Apple store. You do know that's the idea behind trademarks, right? To protect a brand by not confusing customers as to who they're doing business with, who made a product, etc?

      You can have a restaurant with the letter M in it; just don't make it look too much like the Golden Arches and you won't have a problem with McDonalds.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @07:21PM (#42744169)

    An oblong table? Any idiot could think of that. But an oblong table with stools and screens nearby? That's the genius of Apple.

    • by hduff (570443)

      An oblong table? Any idiot could think of that. But an oblong table with stools and screens nearby? That's the genius of Apple.

      I just assume you forgot the quotes around "genius".

    • There goes my study. An oblong desk with a stool in front of it and a wall mounted monitor.

      For the record, the desk is cluttered with motorbike magazines and raspberry pi peripherals.

  • Inaccurate Summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grond (15515) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @07:28PM (#42744229) Homepage

    In this case the trademark is defined by the illustration, which is basically a line drawing of an Apple Store minus the logo. The text in the summary is drawn from the "description of mark" field, which is just a description of the image and does not define the trademark. Further, the summary suggests that Apple is individually claiming trademark protection on various features of its store design ('clear glass storefront...' or an 'oblong table with stools...'). This is not the case. The trademark claims the entire design as a whole.

    • by johnjones (14274)

      that may be true but can you explain to me how this windows store would not infringe

      pricture of a windows store [flickr.com]

      regards

      John Jones

      • by julesh (229690)

        that may be true but can you explain to me how this windows store would not infringe

        pricture of a windows store [flickr.com]

        regards

        John Jones

        From the textual description of the mark:

        The store features a clear glass storefront surrounded by a paneled facade consisting of large, rectangular horizontal panels over the top of the glass front, and two narrower panels stacked on either side of the storefront

        The picture you link to shows a store whose storefront has the horizontal panel but AFAICT is lacking the narrower side panels described. Also, without being able to see inside the store, it is impossible to tell if the arrangement of lighting, ta

        • by cusco (717999)
          There are an Apple and a MS store in the same mall near me. They look 90 percent identical, mostly because what they're selling is 90 percent the same. Friendlier staff in the MS store, though.
      • This photo was taken on July 29, 2012 in Wenonah, Minneapolis, MN, US, using an Apple iPhone 4.

        I guess even then Apple was directionally impaired. That's the bloody Mall of America in Bloomington, MN. And, I must say, when I saw that Microsoft was adding that store right next to Apple's I found myself laughing to tears. It made my night. Even now I get a snicker out of it when ever I walk by.

      • by istartedi (132515)

        can you explain to me how this windows store would not infringe

        The same way a Surface tablet doesn't infringe: It's got the Microsoft logo on it. Ditto for any other generic item. AFAIK nobody enforces a generic design patent on clamshell-style laptops. You can tell who made it because of the trademarked logo on it.

        Of course IANAL, but I always thought the test of a trademark violation was whether or not customers would be confused. Nobody in their right mind would be confused by these two stores. A

        • The same way a Surface tablet doesn't infringe: It's got the Microsoft logo on it. Ditto for any other generic item. AFAIK nobody enforces a generic design patent on clamshell-style laptops. You can tell who made it because of the trademarked logo on it.

          Totally, totally wrong. With design patents (which is what the Surface could potentially infringe on), company logos, written product names et cetera are expressly excluded from the design patent. Putting another company logo on the device is the one thing that cannot protect you from infringement claims.

      • explain to me how this windows store would not infringe

        pricture of a windows store [flickr.com]

        The Apple store has fewer blurry faces in front. Their customers must be more attractive.

    • by almitydave (2452422) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @07:40PM (#42744337)

      Indeed, FTFTM:

      Description of Mark: The mark consists of the design and layout of a retail store. The store features a clear glass storefront surrounded by a paneled facade consisting of large, rectangular horizontal panels over the top of the glass front, and two narrower panels stacked on either side of the storefront. Within the store, rectangular recessed lighting units traverse the length of the store's ceiling. There are cantilevered shelves below recessed display spaces along the side walls, and 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. There is multi-tiered shelving along the side walls, and a oblong table with stools located at the back of the store, set below video screens flush mounted on the back wall. The walls, floors, lighting, and other fixtures appear in dotted lines and are not claimed as individual features of the mark; however, the placement of the various items are considered to be part of the overall mark.

      Acquired Distinctiveness Claim: In whole

      This is presumably an attempt to deter/combat the copycats that have actually tried to trick people into thinking they're Apple stores.

    • by sustik (90111)

      I wonder how many elements can or cannot match? For example, if instead of an oblong tables I use a rectangular ones, would that be ok? :-)

  • I was wondering where the next "innovation" would take place. I suppose the next "innovation" in their store will be that it is 10% smaller and allows voice commands.

  • Everyone will complain, but if I asked you to name one consumer tech company that does things most differently than any other, you'd say Apple. Why should Apple not enjoy the protection of these differences--which clearly make them very successful? I don't have a solution in particular here, but it's hard to claim that Apple has nothing to pursue here.

  • windows stores... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by johnjones (14274)

    look exactly the same...

    so thats going to be fun for them !

    picture of a windows store next to apple store [flickr.com]

    regards

    John Jones

    • look exactly the same...

      According this service mark, no, they don't, so there shouldn't be any conflicts. As the service mark says, it must be considered in whole, not in part, and the Microsoft stores do not demonstrate all of the aspects detailed in Apple's service mark.

      Moreover, if they did demonstrate everything in Apple's service mark, wouldn't that be a compelling argument for why Apple should be filing this sort of paperwork in the first place? After all, they have a brand to protect, and part of that is ensuring that other

  • by Trolan (42526) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @07:32PM (#42744277) Homepage

    But Microsoft trademarked their store design too, and had it granted in 2011. This looks much like return fire, and not an opening shot.

    http://tsdr.uspto.gov/#caseNumber=85194406&caseType=SERIAL_NO&searchType=statusSearch [uspto.gov]

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @07:36PM (#42744299) Homepage

    Nor does it "grant" them. It registers them. They are created by use.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Desler (1608317)

      Your post goes over most of their heads. Many don't even know the difference between a patent and trademark.

  • The summary makes this sound much worse than it actually is. To be infringing, a store would have to:

    1. Have the same arrangement of windows (not just the single large panel mentioned in the summary, but also the smaller side panels), *and*
    2. Have cantilevered shelves, *and*
    3. Have multiple rectangular tables, *and*
    4. Have flush-mounted video screens on the rear wall.

    It's possible a court *might* hold that something hitting 3 out of 4 of these was confusingly similar, but by no means certain. Courts aren'

    • by Belial6 (794905)
      So, would have to be a pretty common layout for stores. While it is true that this layout is more common in clothing stores, it isn't exactly rare or new for stores that sell electronic goods.
      • Come on ... almost no-one (if anyone) has even the first point ...

        It's a specific arrangement of vertical glass panels from floor to door height across the full frontage of the store and supplemented by horizontal glass panels from top of the door to the ceiling and 2 narrow panels either side of the store front.

        Cantilevered shelves along the walls are pretty rare. Flush-mounted video screen less so and tables are pretty much the common one (although they need to running solely front to back which is quite

    • by PRMan (959735) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @08:34PM (#42744929)

      Courts aren't stupid.

      Citation?

    • Something like this?
      http://tsdr.uspto.gov/documentviewer?caseId=sn85194406&docId=DRW20101213072755 [uspto.gov]

      That's Microsoft's store layout trademark they registered in 2011.

      Samething, minus the glass out front.

  • by Jim Hall (2985) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @07:44PM (#42744385) Homepage

    The summary gives the impression this is a patent, but the /. article title says trademark. Actually, according to the linked USPTO file [uspto.gov], it's a service mark.

    I had once considered applying for a registered trademark for the FreeDOS Project, [freedos.org] just to protect the name. To be clear, a registered trademark is R not TM. But the Apple file is a service mark, or SM. To simplify, a SM is basically the same as a TM, but the understanding is a SM will be for a short term use, for various definitions of "short term" (usually a SM is applied to an advertising slogan, like Walmart's "Save money. Live better.")

    First of all, to apply for either mark in the US, you need to pay a fee to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). But even if you file, there is the issue of diligence. If there's a violation (someone uses that trademark or service mark without permission) the mark holder fails to prosecute or take action, the mark can be found in a court to be unprotected and open for use. There are other ways to lose a mark as well.

    However, it is not necessary to register a mark with the USPTO in order to claim it as a trademark or service mark. The USPTO says any time you claim rights in a mark, you may use the "TM" (trademark) or "SM" (service mark) designation to alert the public to your claim, regardless of whether you have filed an application with the USPTO.

    Owning a mark registration on the Principal Register does give you several things:

    • constructive notice to the public of the registrant's claim of ownership of the mark;
    • a legal presumption of the registrant's ownership of the mark and the registrant's exclusive right to use the mark nationwide on or in connection with the goods and/or services listed in the registration;
    • the ability to bring an action concerning the mark in federal court;
    • the use of the U.S registration as a basis to obtain registration in foreign countries; and
    • the ability to file the U.S. registration with the U.S. Customs Service to prevent importation of infringing foreign goods.

    So really what Apple is doing here is registering the layout and design of their store as a service mark (an identity) so that if someone else comes along and uses the same layout and design, Apple can make a stronger case to sue them. The legal theory is that you could have looked up the service mark to see if someone else was using it so it's harder to defend yourself if you are found to be infringing. Not impossible to defend, just harder.

    Companies do this kind of thing all the time. It just doesn't usually hit the news. Coke has a registered mark on the shape their bottle, for example.

    This isn't an Apple patent, it's not an abuse of the patent system. It's just a service mark.

    • by Teancum (67324)

      Pepsi also made a distinctive bottle shape. While not as distinctive as the Coca-cola bottle, it still is a distinguishing characteristic if you happen to pick up the bottle. Essentially, the bottle is the logo or "brand" of the respective companies.

      If somebody else, even a computer vending company of some sort like Dell or HP comes along and builds a store with a somewhat similar layout to sell their products, the question really becomes how much is too much to confuse customers into thinking it is the s

    • by zieroh (307208)

      The summary gives the impression this is a patent

      No, it doesn't. Read it again.

  • practice in the restaurant industry. Lots of times you can tell exactly what fast food place they are building just by the shape. MS would just need to change one or two cosmetic things to not violate if they do already anyway. Not much to see here.

  • In the US, patents and copyrights are clearly enabled constitutionally by the "copyright clause" - article 1, section 8, clause 8, which in its entirety states:

    To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

    Trademarks are not so enabled per se. Lawmakers saw an open door in the "commerce clause" - article 1, section 8, clause 3, which in its entirety states:

    To regulate Commerce with f

  • Hope they don't try to enforce this here in Australia.

    The Setup of the Apple store is the general way mobile phone stores have been setup here for several years. Colors and textures might be different - however the layout and form (of the tables / displays) of the stores are pretty much identical.

    I am still amazed some of the patents are handed out in the USA.
  • Now we need to do a trademark search every time we design a desk layout: is square monitor with square table taken?

  • Did they also patent their quality customer service where an employee tells you to wait in front of a display so it looks like you're a customer rather than someone who's been waiting over fifteen minutes just to talk to someone about your broken iPad?

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