US patent for Apple store in Shanghai

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Shanghai Daily, March 23, 2012
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With its gleaming glass tower, spiral staircase and illuminated white Apple logo floating within a transparent cylinder, it is one of Shanghai's most recognizable retail landmarks.

The Apple store in Lujiazui's IFC mall has been granted a design patent in the United States, a sign of the technology giant's drive to safeguard the originality of its architecture, as well as the look of its products.

It is something of a sensitive subject for the company after elaborate fake Apple stores, complete with winding staircases and blue T-shirt-clad employees, were discovered in Kunming, capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province, last July.

Apple is almost as famous for its quirky, ethereal buildings as for the sleek minimalism of its products.

The Lujiazui store, which opened in 2010, bears a resemblance to the dreamy, transparent cube-like store on Fifth Avenue in New York.

The presence of Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs' name in the patent, which was filed for in 2010, underscores the seriousness with which the company takes the design of its stores. Jobs, who died last October, was famous for his attention to detail.

Other names on the patent include architects David Andreini, Peter Bohlin and Karl Backus from Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, the California firm responsible for many of Apple's stores, including those in London and San Francisco.

Weng Li, a senior manager at the Shanghai office of Rouse, a global intellectual property firm, said that trademarking a building was an unusual step to take. While the patent gave it protection under US law, it did not guarantee the same protection in China.

"It is possible to apply for a design patent in China to protect the unique appearance of a building. However it is not normal, generally," she said.

Apple's approach to intellectual property in China has been in the spotlight after it became embroiled in a trademark dispute with Proview, a Shenzhen firm that claimed ownership of the iPad name in a case that saw the tablet computers temporarily taken off some shelves in China.

You Yunting, an IP lawyer at the Debund Law Office in Shanghai, said the building's artistic features could already be protected under Chinese copyright law, which extends to architecture.

"If Apple owns the copyright of the design of the Apple store in Lujiazui, the copyright will get automatic protection."

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