With its all-glass front, minimalist interior and floating glass staircase, you know when you’ve walked into an Apple store (the mass of Apple products on display and large Apple logo also help).

The Cupertino company has this month trademarked that design, though it’s taken the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) three years to reach its decision.

“The design Apple submitted for trademark status was of the so-called V2.0, mall store that features glass windows framed by stainless steel panels, topped by a back-lit Apple logo, stone floors, interior stainless steel walls and wood display tables,” Apple store specialist site ifoAppleStore reported.

The first Apple store opened in 2001, though the version 2 design to which the trademark is linked first appeared in 2006.

Apple applied to trademark the design four years later in May 2010, though the USPTO initially rejected the tech giant’s request, explaining that the applied-for trademark was not “inherently distinctive”.

The company followed up with 122 further pages of information to support its application but again the USPTO rejected it, calling the description of the trademark “extremely vague.”

Apple persevered, submitting another 681 pages of materials. The USPTO were satisfied this time around, approving the application [pdf] in April last year and posting the trademark certificate last week.

Phony Apple stores in China hit the headlines in 2011 when an American ex-pat blogger posted photos of several fake stores in the city of Kunming. The stores looked like the real deal and incredibly, some members of staff apparently believed they were actually working for Apple.

And Samsung’s first Australian Experience store, which opened in Sydney in August last year, certainly has a number of design elements that will look familiar to some observers.

There are currently some 400 Apple stores in 14 countries. According to data released last week, the stores received 121 million visitors in the last three months of 2012, a new record for the company.