Ever since it first debuted in January 2006, Apple has jealously guarded its MagSafe technology from being poached by the competition. Patented up the wazoo, Apple doesn’t allow knock-offs and goes after companies that try to rip it off, even going so far as to sue companies that make MagSafe compatible accessories that use official recycled MagSafe connectors.
It’s through being so aggressive about its MagSafe IP that, to this day, none of the competition has anything like it. That’s about to change, though: the new Microsoft Surface tablet has a MagSafe-like connector. Prepare for a legal showdown.
Just last week, Microsoft moved to patent for a five-pin magnetic power cable that looked startlingly familiar to Apple’s own five-pin MagSafe connector.
There was just one big difference: while Apple’s MagSafe only does power, Microsoft’s connector does power and data, allowing you to sync-and-charge your device through the same port, like a magnetic Apple dock connector.
But Microsoft’s patent isn’t just a cover-your-ass move to lay stake to a purely whimsical technology years away from market. When they debuted the Microsoft Surface, that MagSafe-like data/power connector was right there on the device.
Could things get ugly between Microsoft and Apple? We’re not patent experts, but we’d say it’s likely. Apple applied for a patent on a MagSafe connector for iPhone and iPad that could also be used for syncing using “coded magnets” back in January, pre-dating Microsoft’s application by six months.
Granted, the patent hasn’t by granted by the USPTO yet, but it’s ostensibly the same technology Microsoft is talking about: a combination charger/sync cable for a tablet that connects to the device using magnets. The only difference is in the number of pins.
Such a legal battle isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, but if Apple is granted their patent before Microsoft, watch out.