After a nearly three-year review of 850 pages of supporting materials, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has granted trademark status to Apple’s retail store design, offering the company some measure of protection against copycat competitors. The approval came despite two application rejections by the government agency, including one that oddly stated the store design wasn’t “inherently distinctive.” In both cases Apple was able to submit additional materials and drawings, which eventually convinced the USPTO examiner to issue a trademark certificate this past week. 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. The Columbia (Md.) retail store was the first to qualify for the trademark, opening on September 23, 2006.
The first 30 or so Apple retail stores were designed with black-coated steel storefronts, and back-lit Apple logos on either side of a single or double entrance. Later stores featured a narrow frame of bead-blasted stainless steel or—very few—with stone exterior walls. Inside, early stores had wood floors, frosted glass partitions and non-illuminated wall graphics. But in September 2006 Apple introduced V2.0 of the interior design, featuring stainless steels walls, back-lit wall graphics and stone floors. It’s this latter design that Apple has trademarked.
Apple applied for the store design trademark on May 10, 2010, including a drawing and the following text description:
Five months after Apple submitted its application, the USPTO sent back a letter refusing the trademark, and stating, “The applied-for mark is not inherently distinctive because the mark is not described as having any particular inherently distinctive features.”