The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that Apple's store layout can be trademarked. Apple secured a trademark for its US store layouts in 2010. When it applied for similar status in Europe, the German Patent and Trade Mark Office rejected the submission.
The ECJ has now ruled that the layout of an Apple store is distinctive and the company be granted a trademark. The ECJ said the stores covered three key areas required for a trademark: 'It 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 court judgement read: '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 trademark.'
It continued: 'The Court takes the view in this respect that a representation that depicts the layout of a retail store by means of an integral collection of lines, curves and shapes, may constitute a trademark provided that it is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings.'
'The Court emphasises, however, that the fact that a sign is generally capable of constituting a trademark does not imply that the sign necessarily possesses a distinctive character within the meaning of the directive.'
The decision may have implications for rivals using a similar store layout.