Patent Office: Store Design Is Money-Grab Machine

March 21, 2012

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has granted a design patent to Apple Inc. for the design of the glass cylinder entrance to the Pudong (Shanghai) retail store, which the patent examiner has not-so-coincidentally likened to a money-grab machine. The patent is a follow-up to a China patent granted  in May 2011, with the “inventors” including the late Steve Jobs, former Sr. VP Retail Ron Johnson, architect Karl Backus of the firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, and structural engineer James O’Callaghan. In the patent grant, USPTO examiner T. Chase Nelson cited several previous design patents that are dependent, including one granted in 2009 to a Mississippi man for, “The ornamental design for a money grab machine.” The device consists of a glass cylinder in which a person stands, and attempts to grab money swirled about by fans. Nelson also cited several other designs, including a perfume tower, outdoor telephone booth, greenhouse and a spiral-shaped building. Apple itself did not make any references to previous design, according to the grant. The Pudong store opened in July 2010 and is now among the city’s many architectural icons, and a stand-out retail design world-wide. The cylinder consists of 41-foot tall panels of glass covering a spiral glass staircase, which leads downward to the underground retail store. Download (pdf) the design patent to view the Apple’s drawings of the glass cylinder.

Download (pdf) the patent grants for these designs, granted over the years and cited by the USPTO patent examiner in his approval of the Pudong glass entrance design.

This patent design from 2009 for a money grab machine was cited by the patent examiner, indicating its similarity to the Apple Pudong store entrance cylinder.

This 1969 greenhouse design contains some of the elements of the Pudong store glass entrance..

This 2010 design for an unusual "outdoor office" is a glass structure built around a tree.

The patent examiner cited this 1977 design for an outdoor phone booth.

A 2010 design for a metal liquid tank shell is visually similar to the Pudong design in this line drawing, although the final products are extremely different in every way.

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