Apple successfully patents rounded rectangle iPad design, may not be useful in court

by: J. Angelo RacomaNovember 8, 2012

Apple has done it again. While we earlier wrote how Apple’s competitors complained about patent litigation being based on how a company could monopolize “rectangles with rounded corners,” the Cupertino company has apparently been granted a design patent for the original iPad’s design, which prominently features rounded corners.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted Apple a design patent for the original iPad. Recall that Apple released the first-gen iPad in January 2010. The company applied to patent its physical design by November that year. Design Patent D670,286 is for a “portable display device” which highlights the following features: a rectangular design with rounded corners, a round button at the bottom and a small camera device at the middle of the upper part. Some parts of the illustration are not included in the patent, though, such as the ports, speaker grilles and volume buttons.

Being a design patent, though, this has some limitations, particularly that it applies only to the form of the object in question, and not any functionality. It is ornamental, and not technical, in nature.

Now the main issue here is whether Apple can use this new design patent against other device manufacturers potentially infringing on their intellectual property. While the short answer is “it depends,” the better explanation would be that it’s not likely. Experts say that this does not necessarily give Apple undue advantage, since you will need to have an exact copy of the form in order to infringe on the design patent. “This design patent gives Apple no new advantage, because no one is out there trying to market an iPad lookalike,” says law professor Lea Shaver in an interview with Wired.

In the August 2012 Apple vs. Samsung court decision that favored Apple, the jury deemed that Samsung infringed on several of Apple’s design and technology patents in the iPhone. This recently-approved patent is more specific as to the exact appearance of Apple’s tablet, and the patent application actually included references to prior design specifications that Samsung referred to as “prior art” in its argument.

We do know, though, how Apple can be overly protective of its intellectual property, and how the company would go to lengths just to make sure other brands and manufacturers don’t copy their designs. Will Apple go after other companies that market devices designed as rectangles with rounded corners? They have done so before, and they probably will do so again.

  • MrBaun

    rectangles with rounded corners patent? apple makes me sick

  • what next Apple will patent and trademark, the apple fruit, that people eat so you must pay your royalties, fees to the bad Apple before you can eat it..

  • amman

    what the hell.
    if apple cant progress in market so why it is pulling others back …
    so cheap things apple is doing..
    galaxy s3 is tge true winner instead of so much cases apple had losen 5th position in china ..
    apple is being eaten by android.

  • L3inad

    How can people follow this kind of company? Damn this patent issues. We all know Apple copied whatever product they made. Consumers should avoid this company. Disgusting.

  • mohdamr1

    Samsung and other android companies and even Microsoft or blackberry or nokia give me an impression that they are technological innovators one way or another. Apple on the other side is starting to look like a law firm thirsty for other company’s money ! Give Apple several years and it will be remembered as a temporary fad that people were obsessed over abnormally.

  • this is why justice officials shouldnt do drugs

  • Joao Jesus

    I’m so going to patent the circular form and sue every cheese maker in the world. And tires, and the first man to come up with the wheel. I’m so going to be rich!

  • IncCo

    Only crApple ! The shittiest “tech” company