Apple MacBook Air design patent could disrupt Ultrabook rollouts

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 84


    Gentlemen, start your engines!


     


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

  • Reply 2 of 84
    macinthe408macinthe408 Posts: 1,050member


    "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. 

  • Reply 3 of 84
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member

    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.  

  • Reply 4 of 84
    irnchrizirnchriz Posts: 1,573member
    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.
  • Reply 5 of 84
    macvictamacvicta Posts: 346member


    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.

     

  • Reply 6 of 84
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    gazoobee wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 7 of 84
    cycomikocycomiko Posts: 716member

    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.

  • Reply 8 of 84
    shaun, ukshaun, uk Posts: 1,050member


    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.

  • Reply 9 of 84
    DaekwanDaekwan Posts: 174member

    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.

  • Reply 10 of 84
    shaun, ukshaun, uk Posts: 1,050member

    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.

  • Reply 11 of 84
    negafoxnegafox Posts: 480member

    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.

  • Reply 12 of 84
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,224member
    shaun, uk wrote: »
    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?
  • Reply 13 of 84
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member

    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."

  • Reply 14 of 84
    ash471ash471 Posts: 705member

    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.  

  • Reply 15 of 84
    ash471ash471 Posts: 705member

    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.

  • Reply 16 of 84
    normmnormm Posts: 533member

    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

  • Reply 17 of 84
    constable odoconstable odo Posts: 1,041member


    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.

  • Reply 18 of 84
    s4boness4bones Posts: 22member
    "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??
  • Reply 19 of 84
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    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.
  • Reply 20 of 84
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    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.
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