BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union's highest court says Apple's characteristic retail store layout may be registered as a trademark.

The Court of Justice on Thursday overturned a decision by German patent authorities which last year rejected an application to grant copyright protection to Apple's store design -- parallel lines of big tables with electronic gadgets spread out on them under a high ceiling.

The Luxembourg-based EU Court said a design pattern like Apple's "may constitute a trademark provided that it is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking" from others.

The case will go back for a final decision to Germany's highest patent court which had sought the EU judges' advice.

Apple successfully registered its store layout as a trademark in the United States in 2010.

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