Patent Absurdity out-absurds itself as Apple trademarks a shop layout

Apple's hubris knows no bounds. It has claimed the trademark rights to "the distinctive design and layout" of "The Shop" heretofore known as an Apple store, and its insane claim has been accepted by the US rademark authorities.

Apple apologists say the company has taken this action to prevent so-called "passing-off" whereby unscrupulous traders (mainly in China) make their retail outlets look like bona fide Apple stores by use of illicit and illegal signage, advertising, branding and so on. Apple has always gone after such miscreants like Wyatt Earp on steroids but this is a step too far.

Talk about using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It means that, in extremis, in every country where Apple registers its "The Shop" trademark, every legitimate electronic retail outlet a rectangular room filled with rectangular tables to display and sell its wares may become subject to a law suit claiming infringement of the Apple trademark.

It has emerged that Apple first filed for the trademark with the US Patents and Trademarks Office back in December 2010 and its application was granted on January 22 this year. Thus Apple now "owns" the exclusive rights to the interior design and layout of a retail shop featuring "rectangular tables arranged in a line". US Trademark 85036990 thoughtfully provides a schematic of what the interior of such a place would look like, as drawn by an artistically-challenged eight year-old.

I suppose we ought to be grateful for small mercies. So far Apple hasn't claimed rights to "The Floor" or "The Ceiling", "The Window" or "The Door", but give it time. After all, who, a couple of years ago, would have given credence to huge law suits being fought over the "rounded corners" on some mobile handsets or the layout of a computer screen.

There is some hope though. As Euripides pointed out, "Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad" - just after their share price starts to plummet from the perihelion it will never attain again.

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