European Court of Justice gives tech giant the all-clear after refusal by German trademark office

Apple store layout can be trademarked, says EU court

Apple has been granted permission to register its store design and layout as a trademark by the European Court of Justice.

Apple first registered a ‘three-dimensional trade mark’ with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 2010. This trademark was registered for retail store services featuring computers, accessories and demonstrations of products, and also for the representation of its flagship stores.

In 2013 Apple tried to extend this trademark internationally, but it was refused by the German Patent and Trade Mark Office, on the ground that consumers would not see the store space as ‘an indication of the commercial origin of the goods’. 

Apple appealed the decision, and today, the European Court of Justice has ruled in favour of the tech giant.

The Court said in a statement: "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 trade mark for services, which, although relating to goods, do not form an integral part of their offer for sale, on condition that that representation is capable of distinguishing the services of the applicant for registration from those of other undertakings and that no ground for refusal precludes it."

The Court added that in order to be capable of constituting a trade mark, the subject matter of the application for registration must satisfy three conditions: one, that it must constitute a sign, two, that it should be capable of graphic representation, and three, it ‘should be capable of distinguishing the ‘goods’ or ‘services’ of one undertaking from those of other undertakings’.

"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 trade mark provided that it is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings," it added.

"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.

"It is also by a case-by-case assessment that the competent authority must determine whether the sign is descriptive of the characteristics of the goods or services concerned, or whether it gives rise to one of the other grounds for refusing the registration laid down in the directive."

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