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Where Are They Now?

Take A World Tour Of Apple's Newly Trademarked Stores

First it won ownership of a rountangle—that's a rectangle with rounded corners—and now Apple has patented its store design. You know, lots of giant glass, pale wood, and nerds in royal-blue tees.

  • <p><em></em>No smeary fingers on our clear glass storefront, children. It's patented. [<em>Image via Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pingping/61487601/lightbox/" target="_blank">pingping</a></em>]</p>
  • <p>Flat? Check. Shiny? Check. Smooth? Check. [<em>Image by Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ivanwalsh/4668631071/in/photostream/lightbox/" target="_blank">IvanWalsh</a></em>]</p>
  • <p>The store furniture is made of blond wood. The kind of blond wood that would make a nerd kick a hole in a flat glass storefront. (With apologies to <a href="http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/84513-it-was-a-blonde-a-blonde-to-make-a-bishop?auto_login_attempted=true" target="_blank">Raymond Chandler</a>.) [<em>Image by Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/garyjd/5739194795/" target="_blank">StartAgain</a></em>]</p>
  • <p>The fabric of the building may be 18th century--it was originally a hotel and warehouse building--but that glass staircase is covered by an Apple patent that lists Steve Jobs as the inventor. [<em>Image by Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/osde-info/5598741590/sizes/l/in/photostream/" target="_blank">osde8info</a></em>]</p>
  • <p>What a view. Usually the best vistas come from the top of a skyscraper, but this one comes from the lowest level of one of New York's five Apple stores. [<em>Image by Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/exfordy/3977401614/" target="_blank">exfordy</a></em>]</p>
  • <p>You know how some owners look like their dogs? Well most Apple stores look like the firm's products. Here's a big Apple logo amidst the bright lights of Tokyo. [<em>Image by Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/london/354832197/sizes/z/in/photostream/" target="_blank">jonrawlinson</a></em>]</p>
  • <p>Who needs the Peter and Paul Fortress when you've got Steve's fortress? [<em>Image: Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/joepemberton/" target="_blank">Joe Pemberton</a></em>]</p>
  • <p>Yes, this was for the opening. [<em>Image: Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/giona/" target="_blank">Capitan Giona</a></em>]</p>
  • <p>Apple is masterful at creating retail operations that blend in with the surrounding environment. [<em>Image: Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/treevillage/" target="_blank">kimubert</a></em>]</p>
  • <p>Going up? Always. A good shot of the Steve Jobs-patented, floating staircase design [<em>Image: Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/betta_design/" target="_blank">betta design</a></em>]</p>
  • 01 /10 | Apple Mini Retail Store, Palo Alto, California

    No smeary fingers on our clear glass storefront, children. It's patented. [Image via Flickr user pingping]

  • 02 /10 | The Apple Store, Beijing

    Flat? Check. Shiny? Check. Smooth? Check. [Image by Flickr user IvanWalsh]

  • 03 /10 | Apple Store, Opéra, Paris

    The store furniture is made of blond wood. The kind of blond wood that would make a nerd kick a hole in a flat glass storefront. (With apologies to Raymond Chandler.) [Image by Flickr user StartAgain]

  • 04 /10 | Apple Store, Covent Garden, London

    The fabric of the building may be 18th century--it was originally a hotel and warehouse building--but that glass staircase is covered by an Apple patent that lists Steve Jobs as the inventor. [Image by Flickr user osde8info]

  • 05 /10 | The Apple Store, New York

    What a view. Usually the best vistas come from the top of a skyscraper, but this one comes from the lowest level of one of New York's five Apple stores. [Image by Flickr user exfordy]

  • 06 /10 | Apple Store, Tokyo

    You know how some owners look like their dogs? Well most Apple stores look like the firm's products. Here's a big Apple logo amidst the bright lights of Tokyo. [Image by Flickr user jonrawlinson]

  • 07 /10 | Apple Store, St. Petersburg, Russia

    Who needs the Peter and Paul Fortress when you've got Steve's fortress? [Image: Flickr user Joe Pemberton]

  • 08 /10 | Apple Store, Rome

    Yes, this was for the opening. [Image: Flickr user Capitan Giona]

  • 09 /10 | Apple Store, Waikiki, Hawaii

    Apple is masterful at creating retail operations that blend in with the surrounding environment. [Image: Flickr user kimubert]

  • 10 /10 | Apple Store, Sydney, Australia

    Going up? Always. A good shot of the Steve Jobs-patented, floating staircase design [Image: Flickr user betta design]

Apple has won itself a trademark for its retail spaces, USPTO records reveal. "A clear glass storefront surrounded by a paneled facade," and "oblong table with stools...set below video screens flush mounted on the back wall," now join the floating-glass staircase design that won Steve Jobs, a fan of simplicity and rationality in design, a patent back in 2003.

We all know just how quick off the mark Apple is at patenting stuff—last year, it was granted a patent to cover the iPad's external shape—and using the patent stick as the beats-all weapon of any inter-tech firm spats. But that the firm now has the paperwork to tell firms just how they can't have Apple-style shops is a huge coup for them. (Hear that, China?)

Are we surprised that Apple is so territorial about its retail presence? Of course not! After all, this is a firm that doesn't talk about the floor space it rents but "the environment we inhabit." For Apple, it sees itself as the architect of this environment, and, given the firm's success at shifting much sought-after gear, both online and in-store, it guards this environment fiercely. The firm has roughly 400 stores worldwide, of which 250 are in the U.S. This is, after all, a firm whose apology in the British press was done in its own style, until the U.K. court of appeals forced it to do it the normal way—that is, in a larger font and using more contrite wording.

But do you think this is a patent too far? Does Apple have the right to tell its competitors—and even non-tech firms—how their stores shouldn't look? Your thoughts?

[Image by Flickr user pingping]

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