Worldwide 15 Sep 2014
Through a judgment from the EU court it is now possible to trademark register interior design, for instance the actual layout of a store, as long as the requirements for a trademark are upheld.
Apple has during the summer shaken the trademark industries throughout the world by acquiring protection, not for the design or packaging of their products, but for the store where their products are being sold. In 2010, Apple applied for a trademark registration regarding their interior design of their stores. The United States Patent and Trademark Office approved the application but the validity of the application was questioned by the German Patent and Trademark Office. The dispute was resolved during the summer in the EU court, case C-421/13, and published on the 10th of July 2014. The protection covers, but is not limited to, the position of the shelves and tables, the design of the tables, the colors of the walls, what is mounted on the wall and the exterior glass walls.
The court stated that as long as a design upholds the requirements for a trademark there are no objections for registration. The trademark must consist of any sign capable of being represented graphically and the sign must be capable of distinguishing the goods or services from other goods or services.
The court stated that it is indeed possible to graphically represent the design of a store. The question at hand was if it is possible to distinguish the goods or services from other goods or services using this particular design. The court stated that this was indeed possible and that it is sufficient when determining if the trademark can be used to distinguish services or goods to observe that it cannot be ruled out that the layout of the store may allow customers to distinguish the goods or services.
For each case it must be determined whether or not the trademark is sufficient to distinguish the service or good. This is done with regard to the average consumer, if he or she can distinguish the goods or services based on the trademark it is deemed distinguishable.
The competent authority (PRV in Sweden, relevant trademark registration offices in other countries) must also in each case determine if there are any obstacles for registration on the same grounds for interior designs as any other trademark class.
The court concluded that there are no obstacles for registering the interior design of a store as trademark if none of the grounds of refusal are fulfilled and the requirements for trademark registration are upheld.
Apple are innovative when it comes to protecting their intellectual properties. They recently acquired industrial design right for their “cube” made in glass located at their store on Fifth Avenue in New York.