January 31, 2013
It has long been a complaint of designers and marketers that courts do not understand design. For the most part this has made it difficult for them to trademark things like packaging designs and colours leaving them open to copycat designs which can seriously undermine a brand and make merchandising more difficult than it need be. Now Apple – who else? – has taken things to a whole new level by officially trademarking its distinctive shopping centre store design in the US.
Apple has been pursuing the trademark since 2010. Its application has been rejected twice by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, on the basis that the design was not inherently distinctive. But Apple, who have fought a bitter design infringement battle with Samsung last year, stuck to its guns and has now finally achieved the trademark of a design that will be familiar to all of us, not least the people willing to queue overnight to buy some new shiny thing to improve their lives.
As well as schematic drawings of the layout, the trademark is based on the following description:
‘A primarily glass storefront, rectangular recessed lighting traversing the length of the store’s ceiling, Cantilevered shelving and recessed display spaces along the front side walls, rectangular tables arranged in a line in the middle of the store parallel to the walls and extending from the storefront to the back of the store, multi-tiered shelving along the rear walls, and an oblong table with stools located at the back of the store below video screens in the back wall.’
There may be wider implications for this decision in that it confirms that the design of a building or an interior can be seen as a form of intellectual property. In the case of Apple, the design of the store is perceived as an extension of the simple intuitiveness of the firm’s products.
The test of such rights may be fought in growing markets such as China which has a markedly different attitude towards intellectual rights and where Zaha Hadid has recently seen one of her own buildings subject to cloning.