Professional Jeweler Archive: Private Property

March 2000


Private Property

Stores claim interior design counts as trade dress

Though customers may not be aware of the subtle differences, the elements of your store design help define your company’s brand. Retailers have adopted design ideas from each other for years, but according to an article in Display & Design Ideas magazine, some store owners are fighting to protect their personal styles from trademark infringement.

Sephora, a French cosmetics company, filed a lawsuit against Federated Department Stores Inc. and subsidiary Macy’s West in August, alleging trade dress infringement and unfair business practice. Sephora says the cosmetics department in the recently renovated Macy’s flagship store in San Francisco, CA, and Macy’s freestanding Souson cosmetics stores closely resemble Sephora’s stores, cheapening the “total shopping experience” at Sephora.

Interior designers told DDI all store design is based on “old ideas that evolve” and, therefore, can’t be protected by copyright.

Retailers often borrow and build on design, display and marketing ideas. To avoid violating other companies’ creative property, combine those ideas with your own to produce something distinctive and original. Document your “creative process” in case you’re questioned later. Pay attention to how the colors and materials you use, the layout of your cases and aisles, and your fixtures and props compare with your competitors’. If they’re very similar, it’s time for a change.

– by Stacey King

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications