A trademark is a word, name, phrase, logo, design, or a combination of those things, which identifies the source of a product of service. Examples of existing federally registered trademarks are the golden arches for McDonald’s fast food stores, Apple for computer products, Nike for athletic apparel, Microsoft for computers, Dominos for pizza shops, the NBC chimes for NBC network, and so many more.  Now add retail store layout to that list of what can constitute a trademark.


On January 22, 2013, the United States Patent & Trademark (USPTO) issued a registration to Apple for its layout (Reg. #4277913). Originally the USPTO issued an Office Action refusing to register the trademark in the US. The USPTO felt the mark was no distinctive and would be perceived as ornamental in nature. Apple overcame that objection. Subsequently, on July 10, 2014, the European Union’s highest court, The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) paved the way for Apple to register its layout as a trademark.  The holding essential provides that Apple’s flagship store layout can be protected as a trademark.

What’s in it for Business Owners.

What does this mean for business owners who have distinctive retail store and/or commercial establishment layouts? They can have the layout registered, only:

  1. If the layout distinguishes the products/services of the trademark applicant from those of other businesses.
  2. If the layout design significantly departs from the customary norms of the industry concerned;.

I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. If you need help selecting a trademark that can be protected, doing a comprehensive search on a trademark, filing a trademark application, or responding to an Office Action, feel free to give me a call, or contact me through my website, my Law Facebook Fan Page, my Law Twitter page, my Google+ page, or my LinkedIn Pulse page.

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