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?