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Apple Granted Broad Patent On Wedge-Shaped Laptops

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the call-egypt-for-prior-art dept.

Patents 326

Nick Fel writes "Apple has been granted a broad patent (PDF) on the wedge-shaped design of the MacBook Air. The design has been copied by most ultrabooks, and their manufacturers are likely starting to feel a little uneasy about the news."

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326 comments

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Awesome... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40259995)

...yet another thing granted to the rapacious by the incompetent.

Re:Awesome... (5, Insightful)

KingBenny (1301797) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260007)

i kinda like the icon for the topic here, who cares about patents .. the chinese dont, the russians dont, the indians dont, and if africa ever gets on its feet i'm sure they wont

Re:Awesome... (5, Informative)

peragrin (659227) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260167)

Patents and copyrights are used only to protect past acompilishments not create new ones. Stronger IP protections are only used to slow down growth. It is all but ignored by growing economies.

Re:Awesome... (4, Interesting)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260309)

(1) What "icon" is KingBenny talking about? I don't see any.

(2) Excellent point. The Constitution provides for "limited exclusive rights" for inventors/authors to promote production, but history is now showing that it has the opposite effect of stagnating creativity (and locking-up control in a few megacorps) for 20 or 100+ years. Thomas Jefferson was right to propose amending the constitution to insert a time limit on copyrights/patents.

"Article 9. Monopolies may be allowed to persons for their own productions in literature, and their own inventions in the arts, for a term not exceeding -- years, but for no longer term, and no other purpose."

Re:Awesome... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260477)

Probably the spoon/knife/fork icon. Can you imagine if those were still patented?

Re:Awesome... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260759)

I don't see any icon either. I'm guessing the problem comes from the extremely high quality of Slashdot's HTML and CSS code.

Free rider problem solved? (5, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260385)

Patents and copyrights are used only to protect past acompilishments not create new ones.

The entire purpose of patents and copyrights is to create incentives for new works. Patents and copyright attempt to address the free rider problem [wikipedia.org] . Without some reasonable assurance of protection, a lot of beneficial works would never be created.

None of this is to say the laws for patents and copyrights aren't badly in need of updating. They very much are broken in their current form. But the idea of protecting inventive works against the free rider problem is demonstrably beneficial.

Stronger IP protections are only used to slow down growth. It is all but ignored by growing economies.

This is where your argument falls apart. Without relatively strong IP protections, there are fewer incentives to create new work because there are so many copycats. Those same growing economies grow largely by imitating established economies with established IP protections. They tend to create very few (not zero but few) new and innovative works. You can only grow to a limited extent by copying other people. Eventually you have to create your own works and sooner or later that requires some form of IP protection. The exact model can vary but for better or worse there is presently no better solution to the free rider problem out there.

Re:Free rider problem solved? (4, Insightful)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260527)

LOL. The entire problem of your argument is that it rests upon the idea that art needs financing. We dont need to enslave the minds of humanity in order to stimulate creative works. Sure we might not get Magnum Opus's anymore, but i think thats a small price to pay for unfettered information exchange across the globe.

Re:Free rider problem solved? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260633)

Sure we might not get Magnum Opus's anymore, but i think thats a small price to pay for unfettered information exchange across the globe.

Yuh huh, and are you quite aware of just how many Magnum Opuses have gone into the deep, dark underpinnings and history of that precious "unfettered information exchange across the globe" you so cheerfully take for granted? HINT: A Magnum Opus doesn't have to be a book or a play!

Re:Free rider problem solved? (2, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260775)

Let me see you come up with the scratch needed to develop a new drug. Patents are needed to encourage private investments in new technology.

Re:Free rider problem solved? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260689)

>But the idea of protecting inventive works against the free rider problem is demonstrably beneficial.

I would argue this is far from proven. Boldrin & Levine go to great lengths to address this and, IMO, make a very compelling argument that what you attest is not the case.
See http://levine.sscnet.ucla.edu/general/intellectual/againstfinal.htm for the (free) book.

Re:Free rider problem solved? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260877)

Interesting notion. You know, when I decide to create something, the only time patents cross my mind is something like "does somebody have a patent on something that they can twist to try to cover my creation and cause me harm?". In other words, the current environment does stifle innovation, even in cases like mine where most of my stuff would be obvious to a person skilled in my profession faced with a similar problem--and therefore should not be patentable in the first place. Well, unless one is a large corporation and immune from any and all rules.

What's really wrong with your IP maximalist argument is that Apple is its own answer. Apple fanboys aren't going to care if somebody has the same shape for their product as Apple does. They won't care if the competing product is better, either. Apple has built a brand that really doesn't need that stuff.

Humanity, in fact, advanced considerably without the rather recent unfortunate invention of "intellectual property". In fact, I shudder to think where we'd be if people hadn't been able to learn from and improve on ideas and inventions.

TOTALLY ORIGINAL (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260065)

Pay no attention to the Sony Vaio X505 [cbsistatic.com] behind the curtain!

Read the patent! (3, Informative)

dtmos (447842) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260349)

Page 2, "OTHER PUBLICATIONS":

Sony Viao X505, available at least as early as May 8, 2005

Apple cited the Viao in its application. Keep in mind that this is a design patent, not a utility patent.

Re:TOTALLY ORIGINAL (4, Informative)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260499)

Yes indeed, but it seems Apple *did* pay attention, since they referenced that very thing in the patent itself.

Oh wait, you didn't read it! My mistake! Carry on!

Re:TOTALLY ORIGINAL (4, Informative)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260591)

Pay no attention to the Sony Vaio X505 [cbsistatic.com] behind the curtain!

Which is cited as prior art in this design patent.

Which means, in order to infringe on this design patent you have to make something which looks much more like a MacBook Air than a Sony Vaio X505. It says nothing at all about building something which works the same as an Air let alone weighs the same.

Which is clearly a limitation on freedom of expression; one which is nowhere as onerous as a normal patent and which isn't that much of a big deal. Let's worry about the fact that poor people in medium income countries are dying because of drugs patents first please. And before that let's worry about the fact that random independent software companies can get destroyed by patents they never even knew existed, let alone benefitted from in their software development process. Design patents are a very minor issue.

Re:Awesome... (2)

kwark (512736) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260161)

Toshiba AC-100 Android netbook:
http://uk.computers.toshiba-europe.com/innovation/jsp/SUPPORTSECTION/discontinuedProductPage.do?service=UK&PRODUCT_ID=1091301 [toshiba-europe.com]

Physical dimensions W x D x H : 262.0 x 189.8 x 14.0 (front) / 21.0 (rear) mm
weight : starting at 0.87 kg

Release date: aug 2010

Re:Awesome... (2)

EvilBudMan (588716) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260209)

Really, it's prior art and obvious. Apple must be incapable of competing. Just wait until Samsung finishes with them as they actually have a lot of hardware patents. All Apple has is this look and feel stuff.

Re:Awesome... (3, Insightful)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260263)

'Prior art and obvious' do not appear to be reasons to not file for a patent, from what I've seen. In fact, they might be reasons to apply: If people have done it, and it's obvious, surely someone will get a patent on it soon, and you don't want to have to pay patent licensing fees. (Or worse.)

Re:Awesome... (2)

EvilBudMan (588716) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260665)

Agreed, but all Apple will do is slow the introduction of competitors products. When these hardware companies that have many hardware patents instead of just stuff related to look and feel fight back like Samsung and probably every other Android manufacturer eventually, it's not going to be good for Apple down the road, but hey they flipped the switch and started patent wars along with Oracle which might just have really messed things up, I just don't see how this can be good for anyone including Apple.

Re:Awesome... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260507)

Your comment is completely laughable. Apple "incapable of competing"? The ones "incapable of competing" are the likes of Samsung who come up with blatant copies of Apple products.

Re:Awesome... (1)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260753)

Yeah becasue only engineers at Apple could ever come up with the truly unique idea a laptop should be thinner on one end than the other. And then patent a shape. Now that is "thinking different" all right.

Re:Awesome... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260509)

Design patents and trade dress are perfectly legitimate forms of intellectual property and have a long history of protection and Apple is by no means the only company that utilizes them.

If you want proof, try selling sugared beverages in bottles of a certain shape or start a delivery service and paint your trucks brown; and see just how quickly the lawyers will descend upon your home like a plague of locusts.

Re:Awesome... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260489)

Funny how someone can imply high intellect by using a word like "rapacious", yet doesn't see the validity in a design patent.

Should laptops of all kinds never have been allowed to have any patentable parts since they strongly resemble doors turned on their side? Or... Books?

You recall seeing a laptop with the shape of the Air before the Air?
Which one?

I love how fashionable it is to complain about Apple these days. Next Microsoft will start getting sympathy from the slashdot crowd.

Re:Awesome... (3, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260771)

Design patents period should not exist.
Trademarks exist to prevent consumer confusion that is it. There is nothing so novel in making a laptop a wedge shape or flat that deserves protecting.

working towards sainthood (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260029)

surely this glorious miracle shall be attributed to His Holiness, St. Jobs !!!

Don't kill the messenger (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260035)

In anticipation of a hundred posts screaming about the evil of Apple's patent, remember that the idiocy lies in a system that grants such patents. In the current litigious environment, Apple would be foolish not to acquire as many patents as possible. If they don't, someone else will.

Re:Don't kill the messenger (1)

Isaac Remuant (1891806) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260077)

Patents are supposed to be inventive. What the fuck is up with the Patents Office over there?

Re:Don't kill the messenger (1)

FunkyLich (2533348) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260271)

Indeed patents are supposed to be inventive. And I really can't understand how some of you here can't see the inventivess in a shape, or even call it a utility shape.
Speaking of which... Let's see... all these are shapes, right? Bent-over. Knees-against-shoulders. Spread-wide. On-fours. On-fours-chest-down.

All right, don't go anywhere, I'll be back!
(*running towards the patent office*)

Re:Don't kill the messenger (3, Insightful)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260365)

It has to do with their funding model.

A few years ago I remember reading how congress lived up to their name and decided to cut back on funding at the USPTO (or even make it a profit centre)

Next thing you know they are willing to patent anything from though processes to math equations.

If challenges to patents meant the USPTO would share even 10% of the court costs when the patent is invalidated, this shit would get fixed quickly.

Re:Don't kill the messenger (5, Informative)

uigrad_2000 (398500) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260621)

This is a design patent. It does not need to be inventive. The slashdot summary that said it was a "broad" patent is completely false.

This prevents other companies from making knock-offs of this particular design. If the ornamentation on a knockoff is changed, for example, so that it no longer looks exactly like this Mac Book Air, then the knockoff is ok. It's only if it matches exactly what is in this design that it would be infringing.

The slashdot summary makes it sound as if wedge-shaped laptops are now all covered by this patent. Whether it's just written poorly or intentionally designed to cause FUD is anyone's guess. Maybe the submitter will respond.

Re:Don't kill the messenger (2)

Moheeheeko (1682914) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260219)

Apple Defence Force!

ASSEMBLE!!!

Re:Don't kill the messenger (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260285)

If there are no players there won't be a game to hate.

As long as all the players are working on gaming the system the system will not be fixed.

Re:Don't kill the messenger (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260303)

To me this kind of sounds like arguing for charging a gun manufacturer with murder every time someone gets shot while ignoring the guy that pulled the trigger.

Re:Don't kill the messenger (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260325)

In the current litigious environment, Apple would be foolish not to acquire as many patents as possible.

Or they could use their vast resources to get the system changes so it's not so stupidly litigious.. but then they wouldn't be able to use it to their own advantage.


"Everybody else is a fuckhead, which justifies me being one too" is one of the weakest excuses in human history.

Re:Don't kill the messenger (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260561)

It may be a weak excuse, but its a strong survival trait.

Dear Patent Office (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260045)

The shape of a wedge has been around for thousands of years, maybe the egyptians or Greeks invented it.

Re:Dear Patent Office (5, Informative)

dhovis (303725) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260125)

This comes up occasionally and this is not a traditional patent, but a design patent. You can still build a wedge-shaped laptop, you just can't have it look exactly like a MacBook Air. There are lots of ways of designing around it. You could make it almost the same, but with a different finish, for example.

Functional parts (4, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260297)

Indeed, as soon as it is shown that the wedge shape is functional (provides a small tilt for the keyboard, makes it easier to carry) that part of a design patent is invalidated. The reason so many details are needed in the application, I suspect, is to prevent a Chinese company from producing an exact knockoff by acquiring the dies and CAD files as soon as this version ceases manufacturing. Nothing to see here etc.

Re:Functional parts (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260533)

Yea, let's just ignore that Apple sued Samsung for using ROUND FUCKING CORNERS on phones in Germany. But Apple would never use such a thing in an anti-competitive manner. Trust me, I'm a doctor!

Re:Functional parts (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260657)

The reason so many details are needed in the application, I suspect, is to prevent a Chinese company from producing an exact knockoff

Explain how a US patent for anything prevents a Chinese company from doing anything. The Chinese have no problem producing knockoffs to compete against foreign products in Chinese markets.

Re:Functional parts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260851)

It prevents the knockoffs from diluting the western markets. No one really cares if the Chinese market is flooded with knockoffs as long as they stay cooped up in China because for the most part the Chinese can't afford the "real thing" anyway (remember those crappy factory jobs all the human rights people complain about are the "better opportunities" that the Chinese people are leaving their farms to take advantage of)

Prior Art (0)

TigerTime (626140) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260049)

Re:Prior Art (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260235)

Aren't the patent officers supposed to investigate "prior art" before issuing the patent? Maybe like congress they just aren't doing their jobs anymore, and dumping it on the courts to nullify laws/patents.

Re:Prior Art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260521)

Same pattern as "Kill'em all, and let God sort'em out".

Issue all the patents, let the Courts sort'em out.

Re:Prior Art (2)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260443)

From the patent:

Page 2, "OTHER PUBLICATIONS":

Sony Viao X505, available at least as early as May 8, 2005

The Examiner looked at the Vaio and properly determined that this design was different and not obvious in view of it.

Re:Prior Art (1)

Barsteward (969998) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260573)

"The Examiner looked at the Vaio and properly determined that this design was different and not obvious in view of it."

then the Examiner is a fucking arse...

Re:Prior Art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260669)

Do you really think the Viao and the Air look the same? One has a large round hinge and the other doesn't. I don't think they're similar at all.

I am patenting cube tomorrow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260061)

If this went through why not pantent cube and sphere then?

Re:I am patenting cube tomorrow (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260293)

If this went through why not pantent cube...?

You can't patent a cube, I call prior art http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_Mac_G4_Cube [wikipedia.org]

Re:I am patenting cube tomorrow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260551)

Apple already made a cube computer 10 years ago. Try to be original for once in your life, ok.

It's a design patent... (4, Insightful)

CajunArson (465943) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260081)

This is not a "broad" patent on any wedge shaped laptop but instead a relatively narrow patent on portions of the ornamental design of the Macbook air. Looking at the priority date, you'll see that the earliest filing date is 2010, which means that even the original Macbook Air models are prior art for this case.

Look at the listing of prior art and you'll see PLENTY of wedge-shaped notebooks that are already out there... because this patent is *not* covering all wedge-shaped notebooks, despite the intentionally hyped-up-so-we'll-make-ad-revnue summary & headline. (P.S. I run adblock to help do my part to have Slashdot lose money for posting this drivel).

Can be invalidated if design has practical utility (4, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260141)

That and according to this Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] : "Design patents cover the ornamental nonfunctional design of an item. Design patents can be invalidated if the design has practical utility (e.g. the shape of a gear)." So let's figure out how to show "practical utility" for a wedge shape.

Re:Can be invalidated if design has practical util (4, Funny)

Ed Bugg (2024) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260233)

That and according to this Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] : "Design patents cover the ornamental nonfunctional design of an item. Design patents can be invalidated if the design has practical utility (e.g. the shape of a gear)." So let's figure out how to show "practical utility" for a wedge shape.

It's a Mac... It's only functional use is as a door stop. The wedge shape has been standard for door stops for eons!!!!

Re:Can be invalidated if design has practical util (1)

C_Kode (102755) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260261)

That and according to this Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] : "Design patents cover the ornamental nonfunctional design of an item. Design patents can be invalidated if the design has practical utility (e.g. the shape of a gear)." So let's figure out how to show "practical utility" for a wedge shape.

The shape cuts down on size and weight. That should be utility enough.

Re:Can be invalidated if design has practical util (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260321)

So let's figure out how to show "practical utility" for a wedge shape.

It is a wedge shape because the hinge cannot be made as thin as the rest of the unit.

Re: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260603)

The sharp edge is easier to fit into a laptop bag and the blunt edge is easier to pull from a laptop bag.

Re:Can be invalidated if design has practical util (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260711)

It wouldn't matter. Apple didn't patent a wedge shape. They patented the ornamental appearance of the MacBook Air.

Re:It's a design patent... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260151)

Um. All those "ornamental design" bits are dashed lines, which means irrelevant to the application. The ONLY solid lines are the wedge shape. And, uh, a company's own products can't be 'prior art'...

Re:It's a design patent... (3, Informative)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260541)

And, uh, a company's own products can't be 'prior art'...

Not true:

35 USC 102: A person shall be entitled to a patent unless —
(b)the invention was patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country or in public use or on sale in this country, more than one year prior to the date of the application for patent in the United States

That applies even if the description, public use, or sale was by the inventor. It's to keep people from selling a product for years, waiting until a competitor appears, and only then filing an application.

Re:It's a design patent... (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260175)

>>>I run adblock to help do my part to have Slashdot lose money for posting this drivel).

-or- You could just check the little box that says, "Disable advertising" like I did.

Re:It's a design patent... (2)

BenLeeImp (1347831) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260227)

I used to have that box. It seems to have been taken away from me. Not sure why.

Re:It's a design patent... (1)

CubicleView (910143) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260429)

I was going to reply the same, but then I figure he was referring to the linked website. I used to use adblock to remove annoying blot out the screen flash adverts, some where along the way I stopped bothering since I think it contributed to the odd glitch on some websites (to each their own). It seems to me that those intrusive ones are not as common as they were anyway obviuos skip buttons etc, and I don't notice the others any more. Either way I never clicked on an advert unless perhaps by accident, so I wouldn't say from personal experience that slashdot would lose money if I were use adblock. I guess the parent poster needs adblock to protect himself from himself maybe?(:P) To attack the other side of the argument, it seems to me that slashdot is entitled to make money whatever way they see fit. I wouldn't recommend making money in a way that annoys the core user base, but whining about it off topic seems a bit pointless to me.

Re:It's a design patent... (0)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260469)

It's still indefensible. Trademarks are the proper legal paradigm to handle this kind of thing.

Re:It's a design patent... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260839)

This is not a "broad" patent on any wedge shaped laptop but instead a relatively narrow patent on portions of the ornamental design of the Macbook air. Looking at the priority date, you'll see that the earliest filing date is 2010, which means that even the original Macbook Air models are prior art for this case.

Look at the listing of prior art and you'll see PLENTY of wedge-shaped notebooks that are already out there... because this patent is *not* covering all wedge-shaped notebooks, despite the intentionally hyped-up-so-we'll-make-ad-revnue summary & headline. (P.S. I run adblock to help do my part to have Slashdot lose money for posting this drivel).

Everybody who cracks about Apple having a patent on 'rounded corners' should be forced to read this post.

Dear Apple Fanz: ( Score: +5, Seditious ) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260089)

iWedge should excite you...

Morons.

Yours In Peace,
K. Trout, PatRIOT

Re:Dear Apple Fanz: ( Score: +5, Seditious ) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260295)

hrrhrrhrrr applez stupit

Look-and-feel (1, Interesting)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260091)

I thought it was determined in Apple v. Microsoft (windows) that you cannot patent or copyright the "look and feel" of software or hardware?

Re:Look-and-feel (5, Informative)

91degrees (207121) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260165)

It's a design patent. It's closer to trademark protection than patent protection in how its used. It protects the look of an item. A particularly famous example is the design of the Coke bottle.

You can't get a design patent for basic functional details. The fact that it's made of two parts, that the front is thinner than the back, and it's hinged are purely functional. The specifics - the curves and contours that only serve an aesthetic purpose - can be protected.

Re:Look-and-feel (1)

hyeprofile (1851598) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260185)

Apple can do whatever they want, and the PO lets them do it (probably cuz everyone at the PO has iPhones and iPads and Macbook airs... Bunch of artsies)

WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260131)

Clearly I need to patent, oh, a four wheeled vehicle. Or bread laid flat with toppings on it. Or a small piece of cardstock with personal information on it. Or a brimmed device to place on one's head keep the sun out of one's eyes. Or a device that can hold all manner of computer components in it. Oh wait, apparently Apple's already got that last one...

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260153)

Wow, I just realized I don't understand anything about patents. The ornamental design for an electronic device? Ten pages of sketches full of gray and dotted lines. If TFS didn't say it was a MBA, I'd have no idea what I was looking at.

Shenanigans!! (2, Insightful)

killfixx (148785) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260157)

Pretty soon all useful physical designs will be patented and there will be no room to innovate without fear of A. Being sued into oblivion or B. Paying a significant portion of start-up costs to patent holders.

Way to keep the money at the top USPTO.

Re:Shenanigans!! (1)

space_jake (687452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260395)

Pretty soon?

WTF (1)

cjonslashdot (904508) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260159)

A wedge shape for a laptop is just an idea. How can this be patented? Ideas are not supposed to be patentable. "If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea." - Thomas Jefferson

Steve Jobs: (1)

arcite (661011) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260187)

"All these laptops are yours, except Macbook."

What the ..... (1)

WaffleMonster (969671) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260189)

How is it even possible to patent "look" of a system? Is this not what copyrights and trademarks are for?

Re:What the ..... (1)

tanujt (1909206) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260203)

Be glad it's a patent that expires in 20 years, and not a copyright that lives on longer.

Re:What the ..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260427)

NO. It's a DESIGN patent. It expires in FOURTEEN years.

Re:What the ..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260715)

I see you wrote this post using Visual Studio 2012's menu.

sure, wedges seem obvious NOW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260207)

Just like one click is so obvious NOW but before Amazon every place had a long and retarded purchasing process. That's exactly the kind of stuff that patents are meant to protect. Stuff that everyone thinks "dude, I totally could've thought of that" but guess what, you didn't, Apple did.

Design patent, not a utility patent (4, Informative)

dtmos (447842) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260265)

Don't Panic!

This is a "design patent," not a "utility patent." "The difference between a design patent and a utility patent [wisegeek.com] is that a design patent protects the ornamental design, configuration, improved decorative appearance, or shape of an invention, [while] a utility patent protects any new invention or functional improvements on existing inventions."

People get design patents so that they may have legal recourse when someone substantially copies the appearance of their product. Apple got a design patent on its particular ornamental design of wedge-shaped laptops, to keep people from making knockoffs off them, not "a broad patent on wedge-shaped laptops."

Unsolicited, unprofessional advice: Roll over. Go back to sleep.

Endless Apple Patent Discussions (4, Insightful)

doston (2372830) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260281)

Hardly anybody on here can even discuss this story from anything but a lay perspective. This isn't a technology story, it's a story better discussed on lawyers.com. I hate when people complain about what stories get voted on, but I just don't think many on here are qualified to discuss this intelligently, so in the end, a lot of otherwise smart people end up sounding like twits. You know, like when your mother explains what you do as "computer stuff"...that's how you all sound discussing intellectual property. This patent seems routine and meaningless, but I'm not an intellectual property attorney, I'm an engineer, Jim, so who knows.

Is this as absurd as it seems (1)

jweller13 (1148823) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260319)

Is this award as epic-ally absurd as it seems to me on the face of it?

Re:Is this as absurd as it seems (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260485)

No, it's a design patent.

It also references earlier wedged laptops (like Sony's X505) in the patent application itself.

It's not a utility patent. The sky is not falling, but the original submitter did succeed in driving ad revenue to Cnet. Mission accomplished.

What is the difference (2)

Anvil the Ninja (38143) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260359)

between a wedge and an inclined plane? I guess Heron of Alexandria not having prior art on that simple machine makes it a more attractive patent target?

Nothing ever changes... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260379)

Most slashdotters will continue to be totally ignorant about anything related to patent law. This is a design patent. Design patents are generally very narrow. This is not a "broad" patent but a very narrow one, covering the very specific design of the macbook air. Everybody saying they got a "wedge" has got it all wrong.

Stupid.

how about wedge shaped lemons? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260401)

nt

Already been around for two centuries (1)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260423)

Seriously? Here is another wedge-shaped laptop [hygra.com] that has been around since at least 1800.

Re:Already been around for two centuries (1)

synapse7 (1075571) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260789)

Nearly every laptop is thicker at the hinges and thinner at the palm rest.

I thought patents had to have no prior art? (2)

cianduffy (742890) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260453)

My Sony Vaio R600 (R505 in the US I believe) had that same shape about eight years ago. Fantastic laptop, at that.

Re:I thought patents had to have no prior art? (2)

cmdrbuzz (681767) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260811)

You could read the article and see that the Vaio is even referenced in the patent itself...

The claims seem light (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260547)

The claim seems sufficiently vague to encompass everything or nothing.

I'm sure they have great patent lawyers, but I doubt any manufacturers are shaking in their boots.

Mac Sucks (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260659)

Enough said.

How to read a design patent (3, Informative)

Grond (15515) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260725)

The scope of a patent is defined by its claims as read in light of the specification, but design patents only have one claim, which simply refers to the drawings in the patent specification. The figures in design patents are drawn in a very particular way [uspto.gov] . The most important thing to know is that only the solid lines matter. The dashed lines are only there to provide context and do not represent the claimed design. In this case, most of the laptop is drawn in dashed lines. It's a little hard to tell because of the relatively low-quality PDF, but it looks like only the lid is drawn in solid lines. Compare that to the parent design patent, D642172 [google.com] , which covers more of the case, the keyboard, etc.

Re:How to read a design patent (1)

synapse7 (1075571) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260835)

Wow, looking over filings from that google link, applied for a paten on nearly every aspect of the macbook air(laptop). I understand you wouldn't want somebody to make a "copy" but isn't there going to be overlap with the basic design of a laptop.

Quick Guys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40260769)

Lets selectively misunderstand how patents work so we can find new reasons to enforce our preconceived notions!

Is the Razr prior art? (2)

Chris.Nelson (943214) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260825)

The Motorola Razr -- both the original flip phone and the current smart phones -- have a design that is thicker where it needs to be and thin elsewhere to conserve weight and volume. Not really a wedge but similar. Perhaps non-Apple ultrabook makers could adopt that thin-with-a-bump design. It's easier to grip, too.

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