The USPTO published a patent application from Apple today, an update on previous patents for theMacbook Air. The patent in question, No. D654,072, refers to "an ornamental design for an electronicdevice" and then provides several wedge-shaped graphics as examples of patent claims. Although theMacbook Air is not referenced directly in the patent filing, the wedge-shaped graphics make it clearwhich laptop Apple is trying to protect.
The granted patent provides firepower to Apple in its fight against competitors who have been copyingrather than innovating. Ultrabooks, the category of extremely thin and light laptops that was pioneeredby the Macbook Air, will be under fire from Apple if their designs are too close to the Macbook Air. Thisnew patent provides a wrinkle for companies such as Intel and other laptop makers, who have beenlooking toward the new ultrabook product category to try to win some sales back from users who havebeen migrating toward tablet computers - a category also dominated by Apple.
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Apple has already come down hard on one Macbook Air competitor, the Asus Zenbook. The wedgeshape of the Zenbook may me the sort of imitation that Apple is trying to thwart with its latest patent,but in this case, Apple didn't need to resort to its patent arsenal to fend off the competition. Pegatron,which recently began producing iPhones for Apple, was politely asked to stop production of the Zenbookfor Asus, and they meekly complied.
Apple claims in the patent that the lid, which is connected pivotally to the base via a hinge, is a uniquedevelopment - one that helps attain rigidity and durability - despite the laptop's inherent thinness. Thewedge shaped computer with the broader back-end also helps provide the sturdiness where needed.Apple also claims that the user impression is tied to the design, and that this unique design helps createthe impression of both lightness and durability.
Although Apple files design patents for basically all of its products, it will remain to be seen if this ismeant to be a passive patent, or one that Apple intends to use as a bludgeon on its competition.