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Apple MacBook Air design patent could disrupt Ultrabook rollouts

post #1 of 85
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A broad patent issued to Apple on Tuesday for the MacBook Air's distinctive "teardrop" design may cause problems for Ultrabook makers hoping to replicate the sleek look and feel of Apple's thin-and-light laptop.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued Apple Design Patent No. D661,296 (via The Verge)which covers the asymmetrical wedge-like or so-called "teardrop" shape first introduced in the company's MacBook Air line of computers.

While the patent itself is nearly devoid of details, usual for a design patent, the schematic illustrations give an exhaustive look at how the MacBook Air's body differs from existing thin-and-light PCs. The lack of text could indeed give the patent more power as it does not limit the scope to which Apple defines the laptop's design.

The patent could be important if Apple decides to pursue legal action against lookalike laptops scheduled to roll out later this year. Some upcoming products from the Intel-backed "Ultrabook" initiative bears a striking resemblance to the MacBook Air, and if Apple follows with tradition these Windows-based laptops could face infringement suits.

Intel claims that ultrabooks not only offer better performance than the iPad but represent a better value than current laptop offerings from Apple, a comment directed at the Mac-maker's thin-and-light. Price points are in contention, however, as component costs associated with Intel's specifications have brought many ultrabook products near or above the cost of a MacBook Air.

MacBook Air Design Patent
Illustration from Apple's MacBook Air design patent. | Source: USPTO


Apple hasn't yet expressed any interest in taking ultrabook makers to court, however that may change as the products begin to hit shelves. Currently, HP's Envy Spectre XT and Asus' Zenbook UX31 are the front-running ultrabooks and both take visual cues from the MacBook Air.
post #2 of 85

Gentlemen, start your engines!

 

And hold onto your hats... It's gonna be one hell of a ride!

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post #3 of 85

"But these are the natural evolution of what a light notebook computer looks like. We can't possibly make it look like anything else because this is natural progression, so these patents are frivolous at best. It's like patenting the design for a circle," says yet another lawyer representing yet another taker of design cues from Apple. 

post #4 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

A broad patent issued to Apple on Tuesday for the MacBook Air's distinctive "teardrop" design may cause problems for Ultrabook makers hoping to replicate the sleek look and feel of Apple's thin-and-light laptop. ...

 

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I don't see this affecting anything at all.  Certainly there is prior art for thin wedge shaped laptops.  Certainly minor changes from this shape would be acceptable.  

post #5 of 85
I saw lots of people churning out the Sony laptop from 2004 as prior art but seeing at that is as fat at both ends it's nothing like the MacBook air.

I would like to see this challenged in court and for Apple to win. The MacBook air benefits from the unibody design which Apple obviously spent a whack of dough on developing and why shouldn't they get paid from the copycats.
post #6 of 85

Yeah right, cause patents have done such a good job at stopping the rest of the industry from ripping Apple off.  I'm sure those Ultrabook makers are shaking in their boots.
 

post #7 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I don't see this affecting anything at all.  Certainly there is prior art for thin wedge shaped laptops.  Certainly minor changes from this shape would be acceptable.  

Please learn the difference between a *design patent* and a utility patent. It's not about the root primitive (like your wedge), it's about the styling. A Coke bottle is covered by design patent - not because they made a bottle that does things that couldn't be done before, but a design patent covers the styling aspects of the bottle.
post #8 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


Please learn the difference between a *design patent* and a utility patent. It's not about the root primitive (like your wedge), it's about the styling. A Coke bottle is covered by design patent - not because they made a bottle that does things that couldn't be done before, but a design patent covers the styling aspects of the bottle.

 

the coke bottle patent covers a fairly specific design.  This apple one appears to be a little broader than that.

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post #9 of 85

This patent just about sums up everything that is wrong with the current patent system. Apple have not invented anything here they have just created a variation of a standard laptop design. Absolutely ridiculous. No wonder the courts are throwing out Apples lawsuits left right and centre for such frivolous assertions.

post #10 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaun, UK View Post

This patent just about sums up everything that is wrong with the current patent system. Apple have not invented anything here they have just created a variation of a standard laptop design. Absolutely ridiculous. No wonder the courts are throwing out Apples lawsuits left right and centre for such frivolous assertions.

Yep.  Because no company has every blatently copied the iPod, iPhone, iPad, Macbook Pro or Macbook Air.  And there is no such thing as an Intel Ultrabook that looks exactly like a Macbook Air.

 

Its all completely frivolous that Apple would make all this shyt up.  Why didnt they just listen to you.  Clearly you are an expert.

post #11 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Daekwan View Post

Yep.  Because no company has every blatently copied the iPod, iPhone, iPad, Macbook Pro or Macbook Air.  And there is no such thing as an Intel Ultrabook that looks exactly like a Macbook Air.

 

Its all completely frivolous that Apple would make all this shyt up.  Why didnt they just listen to you.  Clearly you are an expert.

 

Fundamentally every laptop looks like every other laptop. Just like every tablet looks like ever other tablet. It's their natural form. There is no other way they can look. The only difference is the styling.

 

I'm sorry if this offends anyone but frankly you would have to be a freekin retard to pick up a Samsung tablet or laptop with the word "Samsung" emblazoned across the freekin thing and mistake it for an iPad or a MBA.

 

I have never heard of Ford suing GM coz one car looks like another.

 

Ridiculous.

post #12 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Daekwan View Post

Yep.  Because no company has every blatently copied the iPod, iPhone, iPad, Macbook Pro or Macbook Air.  And there is no such thing as an Intel Ultrabook that looks exactly like a Macbook Air.

 

Its all completely frivolous that Apple would make all this shyt up.  Why didnt they just listen to you.  Clearly you are an expert.

A good article on the topic:

http://www.dailytech.com/Virtually+Every+Ultrabook+Appears+to+Violate+New+Apple+Patent/article24886.htm

 

The design is too broad and the patent will likely get invalidated. The reason the teardrop shape exists for ultrabooks is because of the ports in the rear. Also, prior art appears to exist.

post #13 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaun, UK View Post

This patent just about sums up everything that is wrong with the current patent system. Apple have not invented anything here they have just created a variation of a standard laptop design. Absolutely ridiculous. No wonder the courts are throwing out Apples lawsuits left right and centre for such frivolous assertions.

So you think anyone should be able to copy Coke's bottle?
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post #14 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post
So you think anyone should be able to copy Coke's bottle?

 

"It's just a bottle. It's not like it means anything."

Originally Posted by Slurpy

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There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already f*ed.

 

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post #15 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

 

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I don't see this affecting anything at all.  Certainly there is prior art for thin wedge shaped laptops.  Certainly minor changes from this shape would be acceptable.  

First of all, this patent doesn't cover a wedge.  The patent covers the design of the screen casing.  FYI, dotted lines in a design application do not form part of the claim.  The only thing being claimed here is the solid lines, which is the design of the screen casing. Design patents are a lot different than utility patents.  The drawings in a design patent are the claims.  Design patents by definition do not cover function and therefore do not have claims that recite the elements of a device. 

 

And your comment about "certainly there is prior art..." is entirely unsupported. Have you looked at the prior art? Talk is cheap.  Show us the prior art.  The patent office (which is in the business of searching prior art) didn't find a computer casing with this design.  Until someone produces some prior art, this patent is valid as a matter of law.  

post #16 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by irnchriz View Post

I saw lots of people churning out the Sony laptop from 2004 as prior art but seeing at that is as fat at both ends it's nothing like the MacBook air.
I would like to see this challenged in court and for Apple to win. The MacBook air benefits from the unibody design which Apple obviously spent a whack of dough on developing and why shouldn't they get paid from the copycats.

See my earlier post about the scope of claims in a design patent.  This patent covers the screen casing, not the wedge. Does the Sony laptop have a curvature and thickness that is the same as the MBA?  If you have a picture, it would be interesting to see the design.

post #17 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaun, UK View Post

This patent just about sums up everything that is wrong with the current patent system. Apple have not invented anything here they have just created a variation of a standard laptop design. Absolutely ridiculous. No wonder the courts are throwing out Apples lawsuits left right and centre for such frivolous assertions.

 

I agree that the patent system is a mess and I dislike all this patent litigation, but that's the system we've currently got.  Apple is certainly at the receiving end of more than its share of lawsuits.  I would be more comfortable with a system that only bans almost exact copies that pretend to be someone else's product.  I do think, though, that some of the ultrabooks look awfully similar, including the brushed metal aluminum unibody case, the placement of ports, trackpad, sunken keyboard, look of the keys, colors, etc.

 

 

air clone.png

post #18 of 85

This won't affect Ultrabooks at all.  Besides, any judge would throw it out in court.  Apple doesn't ever seem to win court battles, at least to the point of disrupting the competition to any degree.  Apple's been going at Android for a few years and Android's lead is still growing by leaps and bounds.  Windows Ultrabook vendors have nothing to worry about.

post #19 of 85
"leaps and bounds"???

The only reason android is big is because they sell BOGO free crap phones and $1 phones

Which company has the lion share of the profits??
post #20 of 85
1) I'm astonished Apple hasn't tried to stop them yet from ripping off their ideas.

2) Can't wait to read to the weak arguments about how Apple didn't invent the wedge or the teardrop.

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post #21 of 85
This is not the first design patent Apple was granted on the MacBook Air. And notice Steve Jobs isn't listed as one of the inventors, so this must be an update to an earlier patent. The majority of Apple patents with Steve listed as an inventor were design related and he was listed on thr design patent for every major Apple product.
post #22 of 85

Man, I am so sick of these endless patent-related legal actions both originating from, and going against, Apple. I don't know the details of this particular one, but the vast majority of them seem to center around thiings that seem like they shouldn't be patent-able.

post #23 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post


So you think anyone should be able to copy Coke's bottle?

 

Yes. It's just a bottle. It's not an invention. As long as it doesn't have the words Coke on it so nobody could mistake it for a bottle of coke then I don't see the problem.

 

Patents have 2 purposes: to protect an invention and/or to stop fake products (like a fake iPhone in China or shirts with the Nike logo that are knock offs).

post #24 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaun, UK View Post

This patent just about sums up everything that is wrong with the current patent system. Apple have not invented anything here they have just created a variation of a standard laptop design. Absolutely ridiculous. No wonder the courts are throwing out Apples lawsuits left right and centre for such frivolous assertions.
Just curious when Apple sued another PC maker for ripping off the MacBook Air?
post #25 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

1) I'm astonished Apple hasn't tried to stop them yet from ripping off their ideas.
2) Can't wait to read to the weak arguments about how Apple didn't invent the wedge or the teardrop.

 

Apple invented the wedge and the teardrop?

 

I think mother nature would have something the say about that.

 

You can't patent a generic shape or design.

post #26 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaun, UK View Post

 

 have never heard of Ford suing GM coz one car looks like another.

You might want to check out http://www.digitaltrends.com/cars/mercedes-destroys-knockoff-300sl-gullwing/ Car manufacturers in fact do sue if others copy their designs.


Edited by ltcompuser - 6/7/12 at 5:58pm
post #27 of 85

seems like a clear situation where copyright is more appropriate than a patent

post #28 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post


Just curious when Apple sued another PC maker for ripping off the MacBook Air?

 

This is the problem. Everyone seems to think that you can patent a nice design. You can't. If you invent something like the iPod click wheel you can patent that.

 

If you design something completely new, a new product never seen before you can patent that.

 

But if you take a standard laptop and modify it's styling to give it a wedge/teardrop design what have you invented? Nothing - you have merely modified an existing design (the laptop) in the same way that Samsung has it's own styling and HP, etc.

 

You can probably patent some of the components within the design if they are genuinely new such as a new composite material like liquid metal or the technology contained in the product such as Thunderbolt.

post #29 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaun, UK View Post

 

Fundamentally every laptop looks like every other laptop. Just like every tablet looks like ever other tablet. It's their natural form. There is no other way they can look. The only difference is the styling.

 

 

Laughable.

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post #30 of 85

I'm sure Apple has sent the manufacturers letters stating they need to pay up.  When/if we hear about legal action as a results of this patent that's because they failed to reach an agreement on royalties.

post #31 of 85
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Originally Posted by ash471 View Post

First of all, this patent doesn't cover a wedge.  The patent covers the design of the screen casing.  FYI, dotted lines in a design application do not form part of the claim.  The only thing being claimed here is the solid lines, which is the design of the screen casing.

Thanks, I totally missed that. That puts this in a substantially different perspective. I didn't see how a wedge shaped design wasn't just a natural design evolution of fitting form to function, but I can clearly see the distinctive design of the screen casing is unique and new.

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post #32 of 85
post #33 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

1) I'm astonished Apple hasn't tried to stop them yet from ripping off their ideas.
2) Can't wait to read to the weak arguments about how Apple didn't invent the wedge or the teardrop.
Most of those arguments bring up the Vaio. I don't really see the similarity to the Air. And I'm not aware of Apple ever claiming they invented the wedge shaped laptop.

vaio-x505-i1.gif
post #34 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaun, UK View Post

This is the problem. Everyone seems to think that you can patent a nice design. You can't. If you invent something like the iPod click wheel you can patent that.

If you design something completely new, a new product never seen before you can patent that.

But if you take a standard laptop and modify it's styling to give it a wedge/teardrop design what have you invented? Nothing - you have merely modified an existing design (the laptop) in the same way that Samsung has it's own styling and HP, etc.

You can probably patent some of the components within the design if they are genuinely new such as a new composite material like liquid metal or the technology contained in the product such as Thunderbolt.

And yet, as JeffDM astutely pointed out, Coca-Cola has a design patent on their glass and plastic bottles that do the exact same things as glass and plastic bottles before it.

And just to prove to you that you "can patent a nice design" here is proof of a patent of a nice design: http://www.google.com/patents/USD355793?dq=PAT.+D+105529+coke&ei=jFDRT9-aDoWZ2QX_4oG6Dw

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post #35 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaun, UK View Post

Apple invented the wedge and the teardrop?

I think mother nature would have something the say about that.

You can't patent a generic shape or design.
Where do you have evidence that these patents are for a generic shape? And I'll ask agin, when did Apple ever claim they invented the wedge shape laptop? If any of these patents are related to unibody engineering then I can see their use. What other laptop manufacturer is using the unibody cnc manufacturing process in the build of their notebooks?
post #36 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post

Most of those arguments bring up the Vaio. I don't really see the similarity to the Air. And I'm not aware of Apple ever claiming they invented the wedge shaped laptop.
vaio-x505-i1.gif

That's certainly tapered but there have been tapering in notebooks for as long as I've been in technology. They used to be so much thicker than the front was often thinner to make it more useable. The teardrop design of the MBA, which is really only possible because of the unibody design does seem to have first appeared with Apple.

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post #37 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaun, UK View Post

This is the problem. Everyone seems to think that you can patent a nice design. You can't. If you invent something like the iPod click wheel you can patent that.

If you design something completely new, a new product never seen before you can patent that.

But if you take a standard laptop and modify it's styling to give it a wedge/teardrop design what have you invented? Nothing - you have merely modified an existing design (the laptop) in the same way that Samsung has it's own styling and HP, etc.

You can probably patent some of the components within the design if they are genuinely new such as a new composite material like liquid metal or the technology contained in the product such as Thunderbolt.
Apparently this patent is specifically related to the screen casing. So no, the patent office isn't issuing patents to apple for pretty designs.
post #38 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by cycomiko View Post

 

the coke bottle patent covers a fairly specific design.  This apple one appears to be a little broader than that.

 

It covers a specific type of geometry just like the bottle does. Try again.

post #39 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post


Most of those arguments bring up the Vaio. I don't really see the similarity to the Air. And I'm not aware of Apple ever claiming they invented the wedge shaped laptop.
vaio-x505-i1.gif

 

Please actually read the Design Patent: http://www.freepatentsonline.com/D661296.pdf

 

It specifically cites the Sony VAIO.

post #40 of 85

"A broad patent issued to Apple on Tuesday for the MacBook Air's distinctive "teardrop" design may cause problems for Ultrabook makers..."

 

Hmmm...not if Judge Posner gets the case, I'm thinkin'...

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