European Court OKs Trademark For Store Design

July 10, 2014

In a complicated legal ruling issued today, a European Union appeals court says Apple can receive a trademark on its retail store design, because the architecture is capable of distinguishing Apple’s services from those of other businesses. The decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union overturned a ruling by the German patent court, which had said the design was, “an essential aspect of that undertaking’s business and that consumers would not see it as an indication of the commercial origin of the goods.” Apple applied for a U.S. trademark on its retail store design in 2010. The trademark was granted in January 2013, and the company then applied for the same trademark in Germany in September 2013. When the German patent court turned down the application, Apple appealed. In its ruling, the Court of Justice said the trademark hinged on three issues: the trademark must constitute a sign, be capable of graphic representation, and be capable of distinguishing the ‘goods’ or ‘services’ of one undertaking from those of other undertakings. The issues were made more difficult because of the particular wording of EU law, and because Apple’s application drawing was rather primitive. However, the appeals court ruled the design did met all three criteria of EU trademark law, and approved granting trademark status. Download the court’s ruling (pdf) and read an analysis of the trademark issues.

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