The layout of Apple's stores in the European Union (EU) can be registered as a trademark, the bloc's top court ruled on Thursday.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) said Apple's stores fulfilled the conditions needed to be considered a trademark. The criteria are that the store is able to constitute a sign, is able to be represented as a graphic, and can be distinguished from other "goods" or "services".
Apple has already had its stores trademarked in the U.S. and looked to extend the intellectual property rights to Germany. But the move was rejected by the German patent office. Apple appealed against the decision forcing the ECJ to rule on the matter.
"The Court concludes that the representation of the layout of a retail store, by a design alone, without indicating the size or the proportions, may be registered as a trade mark for services," the ECJ said in press release.
The Silicon Valley technology giant can now open stores with its minimalist style and products on open tables across the European Union and other companies cannot replicate its design.
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Companies wishing to apply for a trademark for its store design will be assessed on a "case-by-case" basis by the relevant authority, the court said.
The ECJ's ruling is binding for the German court.
- By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal