apple store

Retailing success is a confluence of real estate, operations and product. However many retail store owners (and building and home designers) often overlook one of their most valuable assets – intellectual property.

Trademarks (and trade dress) can be used to protect esoteric creations such as themes of interiors of retail stores, restaurants and associated menus and related concepts. Store designs, blueprints, carpeting patterns, textiles, tapestries and other visual designs are copyright IP. In 1990, the copyright law was expanded to include physical buildings.

Store design IP is particularly noteworthy for retail-based franchises. Unless you and your architect (builder or remodeler) agree otherwise, you will not have the right to license the design and specifications for your prototypical retail outlet to your franchise. The rights in these plans will remain exclusively with your architect or designer, unless you have a work-for-hire agreement or copyright assignment.

Last year, Apple, one of the most well known consumer technology companies in the world, received a trademark for the design and layout of its retail stores. Apple’s move to trademark their store designs was prompted by the fake Apple stores that popped up in China. These stores sold bootleg products and created a very similar “store experience” by ripping off open floors, glass walls, and overall minimalist design.

This isn’t the first time a big tech company sought a trademark for its retail store designs – Microsoft was granted one in 2011. Their retail stores are similar to Apple’s design, with some distinct differences. Both use aesthetic influences and style elements to maximize profits and increase interest in their products.

Mr. Brenner has over 30 years IP management and licensing experience with various industries including consumer products, food, entertainment, software,health technology, medical devices and digital media. He has led international licensing programs as both licensee and licensor, and through consulting projects focused on strategy and management, outbound / inbound licensing initiatives, and IP audits and due diligence.. He has developed and managed deals with Fortune 1000 companies including Universal Studios, Fox Interactive, Sony Pictures, Dow, Cargill, SmithKline Glaxo, Ranir, Coca Cola, Kellogg’s, Hasbro, Mattel, and others. He is a public speaker and published writer, and has taught classes at the university level. His speaking events have included UC Irvine, Tritech/SBDC, Irvine Chamber, Fast Start Studios, ICFO Investors Conference, San Diego Investment Conference, Westlaw Legal Center (NYC), National Speakers Association, and the Hong Kong FilmArt Expo. He has written several articles on licensing intellectual property which have appeared in the Licensing Journal, Intellectual Property Magazine, and License India.

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