Orange County - Microsoft has recently been awarded trade dress protection for the interior layout of a high tech retail store. The USPTO granted Trademark Registration 4,036,534 which covers the design of a retail store with "four curved tabletops at the front and rear side walls" along with a "rectangular band displaying changing video images on the walls." The trademark covers retail stores that sell computers, computer accessories, cell phones, video games, books, backpacks, and even apparel.
Trade dress protection granted by the USPTO can apply to the overall appearance of an article, product, or as in this case the interior or exterior of a retail store or service center. Trade dress is awarded to distinctive aesthetic designs that serve no functional purpose, as functional designs are covered under patent law. Like a trademark for a logo or brand name, trade dress should create an association in the minds of the consumers linking the source of the product or service to the aesthetic appearance or design of the retail store.
Competitor Apple has experienced vast success with its Apple stores, which allow it to debut new products, promote brand awareness, and allow consumers the opportunity to test products before purchase. The stores not only sell products to consumers, but serve as promotional tools. With 357 locations worldwide, Apple has received considerable publicity regarding its retail stores, including architectural awards. As Microsoft expands its product line, it is hoping for a similar response to its retail stores.
Microsoft, developers of the Windows Operating System, Windows Phone, and the Xbox 360, plan to open 75 retail store locations nationwide. Microsoft has several retail stores currently in operation and hopes to create a recognizable and enjoyable consumer experience utilizing its newly protected trade dress.
Microsoft has recently made significant strides in the fight to acquire a larger share of the smartphone and tablet market. Microsoft and Samsung have recently agreed to cross-license patents to develop products such as the Windows Phone, Android Smartphones, and tablets. In addition, Microsoft and Finnish cellphone makers Nokia have partnered up to develop new smartphone products. Microsoft hopes these retail stores will help the software giant compete in the ever-increasing smartphone/tablet market led by Apple, Google, and Amazon, among others.