Surprise: Apple Actually Does Have A Patent On Rectangles With Rounded Corners

Surprise: Apple Actually Does Have A Patent On Rectangles With Rounded Corners

One of my favorite lines used by people defending Samsung during their $1 billion legal beatdown from Apple was the claim that Apple doesn’t have a patent on glass rectangles with rounded corners. “You can’t patent the rectangle,” they would say.

Yeah, well Apple just did. Kind of.

After a review by a patent examiner on Tuesday, the United States Patent and Trademark Office awarded Apple an additional design patent for the iPad’s “ornamental design.” The design feature cited in US Patent D607,286 for a “Portable display device” pretty much appears to be a literal rounded rectangle.

As reported by Chris Foresman at Ars Technica, it’s unclear whether this new patent actually gives Apple extra ammunition for legal battles against nefarious ripoff artist Samsung. Apple already had a design patent that it used in its U.S. trial against Samsung that includes some of the same features. Judge Koh ruled that Samsung did infringe on Apple’s D504,889 patent which was based off a iPad prototype from 2004.

Even though Apple has patented the ornamental design of the iPad with it’s flat glass surface, rectangular body, and rounded corners, other companies have already moved away from copying the iPad’s design, so the new patent probably doesn’t give Apple any new legal advantages right now.

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  • extra_medium

    So is Samsung finally rolling out the triangular tablet or something?

  • B066Y

    This is ignorant…what other shape are you going to make a tablet? This whole patent system needs to be rethought.

  • technochick

    Actually the more popular line is that you shouldn’t be able to patent a rectangular etc.

    Personally I feel rather middle of the road on this issue. To me it’s about as ‘logo’ as an actual logo so some kind of protection is in order. Not sure if it should be a patent or a trademark but I do feel that it needs to be specific and violations should be based on hitting at least 3/4 of the points and not just one or two.

    so to me a valid and protectable design would be
    1. rectangular in shape
    2. rounded corners
    3. flat operational surface covered in a glass or plastic material
    4. rounded or beveled edges at the point of the surface material connecting to the rear housing.
    5. consistent thickness of general shape excluding no more than the outer 5% of ‘slope’ from said edges

    and so on. actual size would not be included but aspect ratio of the screen and device would be (thus covering both the ipad Mini and the full sized iPad)

    if someone made a square tablet with a rounded back and plastic above the surface and the other thing that was in common was the rounded corners that clearly isn’t the same. and so on.

    devil in the details if you will.

  • jahsoul

    Actually the more popular line is that you shouldn’t be able to patent a rectangular etc.

    Personally I feel rather middle of the road on this issue. To me it’s about as ‘logo’ as an actual logo so some kind of protection is in order. Not sure if it should be a patent or a trademark but I do feel that it needs to be specific and violations should be based on hitting at least 3/4 of the points and not just one or two.

    so to me a valid and protectable design would be
    1. rectangular in shape
    2. rounded corners
    3. flat operational surface covered in a glass or plastic material
    4. rounded or beveled edges at the point of the surface material connecting to the rear housing.
    5. consistent thickness of general shape excluding no more than the outer 5% of ‘slope’ from said edges

    and so on. actual size would not be included but aspect ratio of the screen and device would be (thus covering both the ipad Mini and the full sized iPad)

    if someone made a square tablet with a rounded back and plastic above the surface and the other thing that was in common was the rounded corners that clearly isn’t the same. and so on.

    devil in the details if you will.

    How can a design be a logo? For the life of me, I don’t understand the logic of the USPTO. But according to your logic, Apple has a problem on its hand.

    http://pcmonde.com/components/com_virtuemart/shop_image/product/TC2.jpg
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a8/TC1100-1.JPG

    I say that to say this; this whole design and patent trolling that both sides are doing is not moving the industry forward. Apple can sue the crap out of Samsung and vice versa but what does it accomplish. People buy what they like.

  • CharilaosMulder

    So is Samsung finally rolling out the triangular tablet or something?

    Sure, if Apple does.

  • CharilaosMulder

    This is ignorant…what other shape are you going to make a tablet? This whole patent system needs to be rethought.

    So how comes Microsoft actually thinks of original ideas both on their Surface tablet and on WP8? How comes RIM’s products look significantly different? How comes Nokia has it’s own style? It doesn’t have to be a blatant copy. Only Samsung makes products this close to Apple’s.

  • jahsoul
    This is ignorant…what other shape are you going to make a tablet? This whole patent system needs to be rethought.

    So how comes Microsoft actually thinks of original ideas both on their Surface tablet and on WP8? How comes RIM’s products look significantly different? How comes Nokia has it’s own style? It doesn’t have to be a blatant copy. Only Samsung makes products this close to Apple’s.

    As some who has used both devices, Samsung shot themselves in the foot with Touch Wiz. Not many people in the Android Community liked TouchWiz because it looked too ….*thinks*…”Appley.” lol. But to be an objective member of this website (yes, I know, an endangered species), Apple always won the battle when it came down to ease of use and later apps. When it came down to OS functionality, Apple was usually behind the competition. But I place all blame for this Samsung; with their Android skin, they focused more on visuals instead of function. Bit em in the butt…lol

  • lwdesign1

    The rounded rectangle has never been part of the equation and is only used as a distracting argument in Samsung’s flagrant copying. Before the iPhone came along, phones had buttons, small screens and looked nothing like the iPhone. They weren’t personal, pocketable computers. Since the iPhone, nearly every smartphone looks nearly identical and operates nearly the same. Before the iPad, any tablets that did exist were clunky, bloated laptops without keyboards, or were converted laptops with keyboards underneath a flippable screen. No one was producing what we now know as a “tablet”. Then Apple came along and created a device that set a whole new standard. Now all tablets look and operate nearly alike, just like the iPad. Going back in time to the 70s and early 80s, all computers had command line keyboard input only. Then Apple came out with the Mac OS graphic user interface with clickable icons, folders, on-screen windows and a mouse. Almost immediately Microsoft copied the whole GUI approach and had the gall to call it “Windows”. Apple’s history has been one of tremendous innovation and R&D, and has watched as the courts allowed Microsoft to steal its efforts. It’s never been about rounded rectangles. This is just a stupid distracting argument. Look at the phones Samsung, Nokia and Motorolla were making just prior to the release of the iPhone, and you’ll see they’re nothing like the iPhone.

    The whole point is: If you’re going to use someone else’s ideas, you should pay them some equitable licensing fee for them. The patent system isn’t broken. It’s just the copiers who want to steal proprietary ideas without paying that complain about other people’s patents.

  • jahsoul

    The rounded rectangle has never been part of the equation and is only used as a distracting argument in Samsung’s flagrant copying. Before the iPhone came along, phones had buttons, small screens and looked nothing like the iPhone. They weren’t personal, pocketable computers. Since the iPhone, nearly every smartphone looks nearly identical and operates nearly the same. Before the iPad, any tablets that did exist were clunky, bloated laptops without keyboards, or were converted laptops with keyboards underneath a flippable screen. No one was producing what we now know as a “tablet”. Then Apple came along and created a device that set a whole new standard. Now all tablets look and operate nearly alike, just like the iPad. Going back in time to the 70s and early 80s, all computers had command line keyboard input only. Then Apple came out with the Mac OS graphic user interface with clickable icons, folders, on-screen windows and a mouse. Almost immediately Microsoft copied the whole GUI approach and had the gall to call it “Windows”. Apple’s history has been one of tremendous innovation and R&D, and has watched as the courts allowed Microsoft to steal its efforts. It’s never been about rounded rectangles. This is just a stupid distracting argument. Look at the phones Samsung, Nokia and Motorolla were making just prior to the release of the iPhone, and you’ll see they’re nothing like the iPhone.

    The whole point is: If you’re going to use someone else’s ideas, you should pay them some equitable licensing fee for them. The patent system isn’t broken. It’s just the copiers who want to steal proprietary ideas without paying that complain about other people’s patents.

    Honestly, those tablets served their purposed and they served it well. Tablets then were more for portable productivity instead of consumption.

    I’m not taking up for Samsung one bit because they chose mimic Apple’s aesthetics (which most Android users despised) instead of functionality. But I agree with you. Apple lead to the “Consumption Revolution” and people followed but if you truly looked at it, the innovation wasn’t iOS, it was the device itself.

    BTW, the Xerox Star was the first publicly released OS with a GUI.

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Buster HeinBuster Hein is Cult of Mac's Senior News Editor and lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Twitter: @bst3r.

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