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Apple Store layouts can now be trademarked in Europe

Is there something about the design of an Apple Store that’s distinctive enough to be trademarked? On Friday the European Court of Justice decided that yes, there is, although Apple will still have to apply for the trademark ruling itself. The company already holds such a trademark in the U.S. but has faced several years of legal struggles to get to the same stage in Europe.

As the official ruling puts it: “A representation that, such as the one in the present case, 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 U.S. trademark Apple already has in place covers the store furniture and lighting as well as the concept of the Genius Bar. With rivals such as Google, Samsung and Microsoft tentatively expanding their presence in brick-and-mortar retail outlets, Apple obviously feels it has some work to do to keep its stores looking unique. Samsung poached a senior Apple Store designer from the Cupertino company back in December.

The ECJ’s ruling overturns a 2013 decision from the German patent office that the store layouts couldn’t be trademarked. In order to complete the process, Apple will need to prove that its design “departs significantly from the norm or customs of the economic sector concerned” but it now has the legal go-ahead to apply. As yet there have been no comments on the ruling from Apple.

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