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What's Next, A Patent For The Lines Around Apple Stores?

Officially as of last week, there's nothing quite like Apple's stores. After an array of patents of its products, Apple has decided to go whole hog and trademark its minimalist store design. The trademark was approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Jan. 22, Reuters reported.

The trademark's description includes the glass storefront windows, "surrounded by a paneled facade" and the signature "oblong table with stools ... set below video screens flush mounted on the back wall."

According to the Patent and Trademark Office, Apple began the process of patenting the design of its 250 U.S. stores and those in a dozen other countries in May 2010.

"After being rejected twice by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which claimed the store design was not 'inherently distinctive,' Apple submitted additional materials and drawings, and gained the trademark on its mall-centric, rectangular store layouts," Wired reported.

Even though it seems overprotective of an image, Apple isn't the first tech giant to acquire a trademark for its store design — Microsoft did it for its stores in 2011.

Apple also has good reason to be paranoid. Last year, a fake Apple store cropped up in China that "looked so authentic, even the upbeat salespeople thought they were working for Apple."

When it was discovered the store was selling Apple products, Chinese authorities ordered the store closed, as well as 20 other bootleg retailers.

What will Apple trademark next?

Lizzy Duffy is an intern on NPR's Social Media Desk.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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