Apple created a first this month by successfully trademarking their store design. What does this mean for retailers with a distinctive brand and for those who seek to profit from replicating other’s creativity?
For years, Apple has been plagued with copycat brands imitating their unique marketing to sway customer loyalty or even defraud customers into buying knock off products. Now that the EU courts have allowed Apple to have complete ownership over their store design, it has now set a precedent for other businesses to do the same.
Apple had previously applied to trademark their store layout including their famous raised wooden tables and glass front store but courts in Germany stated that this was too broad. Having learned from their mistakes Apple’s trademark submission to the EU courts included further details on measurements of shelving, colour combinations, materials and even the famous cube shape of their stores. The company also protected their unique glass staircase, designed by the late Steve Jobs. Having reviewed their new submission, EU courts have overturned the initial judgement in Germany so Apple can now protect their retail design across Europe.
Those with a finer eye for retail design can see that many aspects of Apple’s trademarked store layout may be impossible to defend against those who are determined to get the ‘Apple look’. Creative Director of KSF Global, Steve Pritchard, agrees, “There are many ways to get round trademarks, a tweak here and there and you arguably have a new design. Just look at the numerous copyright infringements that Apple has been fighting with Samsung and vice versa”. It is common practice for big name retailers to emulate their competitors store layout to improve customer experience if it works. The worry now is that big retailers may come after anyone who they feel are skirting too close to their own POS designs as a way to stamp out competition. It is a definite worry for businesses that are inspired by Apple’s design but had no intention of plagiarism.
Steve at KSF Global sees things differently; it is an opportunity for retail designers to move clients away from the ‘Apple-esque’ clean and fresh trend that is currently dominating retail design. “How many designers have had briefs, saying they want something like the Apple store or look like an iPhone display? Of course, Apple’s store is copied for a reason; it empowers the customer with a concierge service that works well. The problem is that it takes the designer down a certain path rather than allowing them the freedom to explore other possibly ‘better’ avenues of customer experience”. Perhaps this will prompt designers to be more innovative with client’s ideas”.
So how can you protect your store layout? Do your research and find design elements that no one else is using and make them key to your retail design. Apple makes these elements key to their business model and how they sell products, which in the end, is what allowed them to effectively trademark their store layout. Finally trust your designer’s experience and expertise, designers like Steve will ensure that your store is beautifully unique and functional in helping customers. Steve finally adds” Well done to Apple for managing to get this passed! They are protecting their strong brand image and design ethos. It could open some interesting dialogue in the future!”
Find out what Steve Pritchard thinks of your store layout and how he would improve it for your customers. Contact our team now to arrange a meeting.
Sources: businessweek.com, USPTO.gov, Apple Inc and archinect.com