In the previous post I talked a lot about how a store design could be protectable. I even discussed some of the hurdles that a company could face in its bid to obtain protection for store designs. The main hurdle is the difficulty of demonstrating that store design is inherently distinctive or that it has acquired secondary meaning. And the difficulty inherent in demonstrating inherent distinctive is that store designs aren't generally that unique or different from store-to-store. Most store layouts and designs incorporate many "essential" elements like shelving, lighting arrangements, tables, walls and glass. Where a store presents a design and layout that can be specifically defined and linked to a particular source because it has a different arrangement or distinctive, it can acquire distinctiveness over time. Distinctiveness is acquired through continuous use of the same design, active promotion of the design, widespread consumer recognition of the design as associated with a particular source.
But secondary meaning is hard to prove and usually requires providing some pretty compelling evidence (consumer surveys, extensive media attention, significant foot traffic). Another difficulty that even Apple faced: proving that variations in a store's design across different locales did not modify the character of the mark. Almost by necessity, Apple store designs vary by location. This is perfectly understandable, especially when you consider the multitude of factors influencing the design and layout of a store front. Consider the two images below (both images courtesy of apple.com)