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Wait, Did Apple Just Patent the Ultrabook?

By - Source: USPTO | B 98 comments

If the shape and design of a notebook computer can be patented and that patent can, in fact, be enforced, Apple may have been just given a tool that could turn out to be a pain in the neck for PC makers.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted Apple the rights to the design of the latest version of Macbook Air, which could easily be argued to be the blueprint for the appearance of an Intel Ultrabook.

The design patent generally describes the thin screen lid and a keyboard element that tapers out to the front of the device. The document also shows the integration of the Air's ports as well as the location and design of its feet, providing room for variation for Ultrabook makers. However, there is no doubt that current Ultrabook designs are very similar to the design in the patent. It will be interesting to see whether Apple will make moves to enforce the rights to at least certain elements of the design and, if it does, we will learn just how much the design of a product that has not changed much in more than 20 years can be protected by a patent. Essentially, the notebook design today is still based on a foldable screen with a keyboard just like the first modern notebooks in the late 1980s. The differences between notebooks and Ultrabooks could be, depending on your view and argument, rather small.

One reason it's important for Apple to hold the design of this patent is the fact that it is an increasingly important product category that is a critical to the evolution of the PC industry. PC makers and Intel, as well as AMD in the not so distant future, have a considerable advantage in that they can exploit the design of ultrathin notebooks borrowing elements from an idea Apple had first. If Apple wanted to be nasty, it probably has a good foundation to at least annoy PC makers. However, then there is Intel with which Apple has a decent relationship. Not only that, but the overlaps between the Macbook Air and the Ultrabook may not be significant: Apple is focusing on the market of $1000 and above, while Intel is looking at the $700 segment and AMD at the $500 market.

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Top Comments
  • 39 Hide
    friskiest , July 6, 2012 4:10 PM
    Haters gotta hate eh,. but this is going tiresome,.. screw Apple...
  • 32 Hide
    cbrunnem , July 6, 2012 4:12 PM
    Apple, the patent trolls.
  • 31 Hide
    Scoregie , July 6, 2012 4:12 PM
    I wish.. patents would die.... or apple not sure which one... perhaps... never mind screw this im gonna go eat my oranges
Other Comments
    Display all 98 comments.
  • 39 Hide
    friskiest , July 6, 2012 4:10 PM
    Haters gotta hate eh,. but this is going tiresome,.. screw Apple...
  • 31 Hide
    Scoregie , July 6, 2012 4:12 PM
    I wish.. patents would die.... or apple not sure which one... perhaps... never mind screw this im gonna go eat my oranges
  • 32 Hide
    cbrunnem , July 6, 2012 4:12 PM
    Apple, the patent trolls.
  • 25 Hide
    HDmac , July 6, 2012 4:17 PM
    Oh, well that's ok because I have a patent for a device that has a screen and keyboard. That device also uses 1's and 0's to complete mathematical problems. Even though these devices have been around for years now, I am going to be filling this patent tomorrow. /patent troll
  • 25 Hide
    Yuka , July 6, 2012 4:18 PM
    Well, if apple messes with the ultrabooks and ultrathins, they'll mess with Intel and AMDs bottom line as well as the vendors.

    I don't think Apple would sue them like that with it. Not Intel at least... I don't think their lawyers are THAT arrogant...

    Cheers!
  • 28 Hide
    bigdragon , July 6, 2012 4:18 PM
    That design looks obvious to me. There are only so many ways you can build a thin laptop. I want to see the patent office write 100 page essays on why they approve things like this. I want to see them justify it. I'm tired of them rubber stamping everything. I'm tired of seeing them take my tax money to fund allowing obvious stuff like this to be patented.
  • 9 Hide
    Pinhedd , July 6, 2012 4:22 PM
    YukaWell, if apple messes with the ultrabooks and ultrathins, they'll mess with Intel and AMDs bottom line as well as the vendors.I don't think Apple would sue them like that with it. Not Intel at least... I don't think their lawyers are THAT arrogant...Cheers!


    Yeah really... Don't bite the hand that feeds
  • 20 Hide
    Anonymous , July 6, 2012 4:27 PM
    Problem is, Apple wasn't the first to design the thin and light notebook. I believe Sony first came up with the design. Apple is just the first to patent it. Apple = patent troll.
  • 20 Hide
    leongrado , July 6, 2012 4:27 PM
    Why didn't they do this before the ultrabook came out?
  • -5 Hide
    Tab54o , July 6, 2012 4:27 PM
    Screw apple, ultrabooks suck anyway why is thin so inportant you cant put blue ray drives on it theres hardly any USB ports or anything else. Apple DIAF ASAP, k thanks.
  • 20 Hide
    ohim , July 6, 2012 4:31 PM
    This is like out of a SF movie ... an evil corporation controls the planet ... Apple banning everything trough patents.
  • 16 Hide
    jojesa , July 6, 2012 4:34 PM
    I'm sorry but I cannot blame Apple from trying to patent everything that exist under the Sun.
    The brainless morons at the US patent office need to be held accountable. They are the ones granting all this bullshit. WTF. I don't think they like the drama cause by it, so they have to be getting paid.
    Lets see what Intel and Microsoft do about this..
  • 7 Hide
    killerclick , July 6, 2012 4:43 PM
    On one hand, the whole patent thing is harming consumers.
    On the other hand, if patents weren't protected and profitable, fewer companies would be investing in hi-tech R&D, they would instead just take inventions from enthusiasts (and pay them nothing).
    Maybe patents should be valid for only a limited time, and there should be a maximum percentage of the product value the patent holder could ask.
    For example, if Ultrabooks really infringe on Apple's patents, Apple could demand like 5% from OEMs the first year, 4% the second year, 3% the third year, etc, until they would lose the patent.
  • 0 Hide
    dj1001 , July 6, 2012 4:46 PM
    Yeah Apple do that sue intel, lets see how you entire product line does without intel cpus. Remember what happened last time you tried to make your own processor or use AMD, your company was in the shitter.
  • 7 Hide
    teh_chem , July 6, 2012 4:50 PM
    I'm shocked that this design is seen as a "significant improvement" from contemporary laptop designs in the eyes of the patent office. IMHO, it's not a "significant improvement," it's more like a "natural progression."

    Also, it was so dumb for the patent office to go from first-to-invent to first-to-file. Regardless, I can't see how this, if truly used in court, wouldn't easily be invalidated by the oodles of prior-art for wedge-shaped laptops in the progress of going to smaller and smaller form-factors over time.
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , July 6, 2012 4:50 PM
    Most of the SHAPE elements of the patent, and also most of the connection elements do seem to conform very well with the Sony Vaio x505 from 2004 (some .
    This is very much like the pre-invented iPad shape (1994, Roger Fidler of Knight Ridder Labs) and the millimeter perfect copy of the "futurephone" demonstrated by a junior reserarcher at a mid-nineties digital communication workshop hosted by Microsoft that later "became" the iPhone.

    I do like Apple products (and use an MBP daily, next to my Samsung Phone and my PC workstations), but I do also hope they willl be forced to own up the 2.6 Billion dollars they injected as security for banning the Samsung Pad in the US. This is getting ridiculous. And my faith in the US patent law structure has been given a serious whack - again.
  • 12 Hide
    GozerHozer , July 6, 2012 4:52 PM
    Friday Rant..
    As IT director for an Oil Company in Alberta, Canada; I see a few iphones, most blackberry HTC, Samsung.
    Zero Apple laptops/work station on any of our networks.
    All the production engineers use Intel/Windows.

    I just got my wife and myself the new Samsung s3..Love them.
    Apple products are ok, over priced for the performance they offer.
    From what I have seen, a well priced Intel/Win PC can crunch any Apple in any application.
    Ive seen many benchmarks in Video editing and frame for frame, PC is faster and cheaper.

    But what kills Apple for me is their PR.
    I will give any vendor my money before I ever spent a penny on Apple.

    Why did we love AMD?
    AMD was the Humble under-dog that tried so hard.

    All I think about when I hear Apple is "Apple Chinese slave labor committing suicide"

    Im not a Microsoft Drone, but I owe my Career and many hours of fun PC gaming to Microsoft/Intel.
    Yep I'm going to say it, too bad Steve Jobs didn't take Apple with him..
  • 5 Hide
    jimmysmitty , July 6, 2012 4:53 PM
    YukaWell, if apple messes with the ultrabooks and ultrathins, they'll mess with Intel and AMDs bottom line as well as the vendors.I don't think Apple would sue them like that with it. Not Intel at least... I don't think their lawyers are THAT arrogant...Cheers!


    I wouldn't put it past them Yuka. Look what they did to Samsung. They used to use Samsung CPUs in the iPhone. Then they pretty much took the same design and started making their own CPUs, threw Samsung to the side then started suing them and currently the SG Tab is banned from being sold in the US because it "looks" like a iPad, even though Apple doctered photos.

    Apple could easily decide to do the same thing to Intel although they would be messing with some very hot fire.
  • 3 Hide
    twelch82 , July 6, 2012 4:56 PM
    The government should investigate and see if there is corruption at the USPTO. With so much money at stake, I wouldn't be surprised to find out Apple is paying someone there to put through dubious patents.
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