0370 270 6000

Can the layout of a retail store be registered as a trade mark?

17 July 2014

In a potentially ground-breaking decision the Court of Justice of the European Union has confirmed (in response to an application by Apple Inc. for a device mark depicting its flagship store design) that – subject to certain notable caveats – 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 (despite not indicating size/proportions) – provided that the representation is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings.

Retailers following this decision closely will note this hurdle; the courts have historically been strict in assessing the average consumer’s ability to distinguish such so-called ‘exotic’ trade marks, with the proposed mark being required to depart significantly from the norm or customs of the economic sector concerned, as a minimum requirement (not an automatic guarantee of registrability) and requiring that consumers have come to rely on the mark (not any associated trade mark) as indicating the origin of the goods/services. Distinctiveness is assessed by reference to the goods/services in question having regard to the perception of the relevant public, a hurdle which may be easier for Apple – with its distinctive style – to overcome than it would be for other retailers, although this remains to be seen.

Related opinions

The London Fashion Week problem - Brexit and the protection of designs in the UK

London’s prized position as one of the ‘big four’ fashion capitals could be threatened by changes to IP protection following Brexit.

View blog

Sainsbury’s response to Amazon’s entry into the grocery business

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s news of Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Food, Sainsbury’s look to expand with a proposed acquisition of Nisa.

View blog

Amazon sets the supermarkets in its sights!

Well, I think we all knew this was coming. It felt like only a matter of time before Amazon decided to focus its sights on the grocery business.

View blog

Virtual reality payment - it’s all in your head

Alibaba, one of China’s largest technology companies, recently demonstrated VR Pay, a payment service designed to allow virtual reality shoppers to pay for things simply by nodding their head.

View blog

Mailing list sign up

Select which mailings you would like to receive from us.

Sign up