It’s truly amazing, the things companies can win patents on today. Today, Apple (News - Alert) is the proud owner of United States Patent and Trademark Office (USTO) patent no. D670,286. What does it cover? A rectangle with rounded corners. In other words, something sort of shaped like an iPad.
No, you can’t make this stuff up.
The new patent refers to “the ornamental design for a portable display device.” Since you can’t actually patent a rectangle, this patent generally just covers the rounded edges. It’s described as an “ornamental design” because to win a design patent, Apple needed to show that the rounded edges are purely for productive attractiveness purposes, and not a practical design, according to Wired’s Christina Bonnington.
Image via Shutterstock
In other words, rounded corners can't be essential to building or using a tablet.
Apple also has a similar design patent for the iPhone, which it has invoked in its sometimes-successful lawsuits against Samsung (News - Alert) and its Galaxy phone design.
So will this work to protect the design of the iPad from anyone else getting to close to the design? Nobody really knows at this point.
“There's an inherent downside to asserting a patent like this: it's vulnerable to invalidity arguments,” wrote the Verge’s Matt Macari this week. “The narrower a patent is the harder it is to find prior art devices or publications that have everything you need to knock it out. Conversely, the broader the patent the easier it is to come up with something that a judge or jury (or even the patent office) can use to invalidate it.”
Edited by Braden Becker