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Apple Businesses

iMac Look Protected by Copyright 281

Posted by timothy
from the injunction-junction dept.
dublin passed along this CNET article reporting that Apple Computer has settled its cases against both Daewoo and Emachines, filed in response to those companies' release of iMac look-alike PCs. Read below for more.

The settlements mean that the preliminary injunction granted by a Federal judge last November, which halted sales of the Emachines eOne on the grounds that it too closely resembled the industrial design of Apple's iMac, may be a taste of the future.

Apple's focus in these suites has been on violations of their "trade dress" -- essentially, seeking copyright which covers the appearance and design of a product rather than its functional aspect. The CNET article points out that "[h]istorically, the courts have not extended trademark protection to a product's design, but more recently, some have begun to grant trademark protection to 'stylized' items on the grounds that novel industrial design can communicate a distinctive idea or image."

Often, however, manufacturers file design patents as well, especially for products with new or unique industrial design. Given Apple's emphasis on ergonomics, color and ease of use, which concretize the abstract results of years of experimentation and testing, it seems likely that design patents will play an expanding role in the protection of their designs. But by no means will Apple be the only company fighting to establish brand identity with distinctive shapes and colors, and taking on imitators in court over trade dress or design patent violations.

dublin (the person who submitted this article) notes, "This could be ugly, because unlike regular patents (which can be readily challenged on the following grounds), design patents have no requirement for either 'utility' or 'non-obviousness to one reasonably schooled in the art.'" Can challenging or affirming a design patent, especially in the moving-target world of personal computers, be anything other than heavily subjective?

Even if the original decision was jutified, (no one is arguing that either the eOne or the Daewoo machines are based on anything other than the shape and color-appeal of the iMac), does this place us on a slippery slope? As dublin puts it, "Does Apple now have universal first dibs on anything wrapped in clear and aqua plastic? (If yes, then how about lime or the dreaded tangerine?)"

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iMac Look Protected by Copyright

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's interesting how a look or just a concept can bar people from creating similiar designs, usually if a design is slightly different from the original it can be produced. Would like you like Ford to copyright the concept of wheels on a car ?

    I do think this is an obvious sign that Apple is selling computers purely on their looks rather than dealing with the age old issue of proprietary hardware with proprietary operating system with lack of mainstream support.

    Apple would be dead a load time ago if it wasn't for it's performance above x86 chips. However every since the G3's Apple's are started to basically base their architecture round the PC, i.e. PCI bus, SDRAM memory, ATA hard drives.
  • I was talking to my other half last night (She's a die-hard Apple fan), over what she liked so much about them. She told me that it was mainly because of the UI, but also stated as a reason "They're not as bad as Microsoft as a company". Does anyone else here think that if anything, Apple is behaving even more pig-headedly than the Redmond boys these days? I mean, Apple have done a lot of good, and I can see why they'd want to protect the iMac design, it was innovative in that it was the first time styled was valued equally with substance. Very few (if any) computer manufacturers have released 6 differnt versions of the machine, with exactly the same spec, the only difference being the colour of the case. Also the pre-rainbow iMac (an Internet-based computer that was truly plug-and-go) was something cried out for by the mass public.

    However, on the downside, Jobs' decision to sell downgraded G3's at the same price as the previously announced higher-spec machines smacked of the worst case of arrogance I have seen in the industry in a long time. They also have a firm grip on the supply of the machines, and as a result, can dictate prices at a whim, and frequently do.

    It seems to me that Jobs learned a few tricks during his tenure at Redmond, and it scares me to think that a company set up to redress the balance of technology in favbour of the user has developed practices that would not look out of place in the companies they used to vilify.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    They deserve it. The spent thier time and money on an origional design (the difference between Amazon and Apple) only to have it ripped off. Besides, the PC cases are horrible. All you iMac haters: A tablet is great for photoshop/gimp, but the iMacs mouse works pretty well too. And the iMac holds to it's roots of being an all-in-one portable!
  • Uh no...the FSF would only have been useful if Apple wanted the crud that is listed on the FSF page.

    Oh dear, no emacs for Mac users. We have to 'suffer' with CodeWarrior.

    Go show a Mac user who has thousands of quality commercial software packages available a list of the FSF crap - watch them laugh in your face.

    No one gives a shit about the FSF.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Fashions are usually based on standard looks. The iMac was an attempt to totally redefine the look. The bell bottom is a standard design thats been around for years.

    Don't be ridiculous. The bell bottom was new at some point in the past and had indeed redefined style. But you can't redefine style. To prove this, just answer these questions:

    Could Picasso and his cohorts legitimately been able to copyright the "look and feel" of cubism? Or should Isaac Asimov have been able to copyright the "feel" of sci-fi android novels? Maybe Chuck Berry should have nabbed Rock and Roll? Perhaps Disney ought to have copyrighted the look and feel of animated cartoons?

    The answer (you already know it) is NO. Every one of these ideas is preposterous, and iMac is no different. I don't condone ripping people off, but it is by no means enforceable. I am all for copyright with works of art, but copyrighting style is ridiculous. I am positive that if this was taken to court, Apple would have lost.

    The only reason why those two companies could be in the wrong here is deception - if they want people to believe they're buying an iMac. But that would be fraud and I don't think they'd be that stupid.

    Look-alikes and clones are a way of life, and a glorious symbol of The Free Market. Style cannot and should not be copyrightable. No way. I almost wish eMachines had enough money to challenge Apple.
  • by jonr (1130)
    ööööö.... Shouldn't Rowenta [rowenta.com] then sue/settle/whatever Apple over this [rowentausa.com]? I'm giving up on trying to understand corporate "thinking" [unitedmedia.com]...
    J.
  • The pinto had an auxilary heating system to keep you warm after a crash; the pinto didnt'

    And there was a huge difference under the hood: the pinto couldn't leave a nice oil spot in your driveway the day you brought it home :)
  • I disagree entirely. Patents, Trade Secrets,
    Copyright, they all need to go. Trademark should
    be weakened to just the product name. The idea
    of owning ideas is just stupid.
  • Comparing a beige Mac and an iMac is like comparing a Pinto to a Jaguar

    Well, the Pinto is (basically) American, and therefore common as muck, whereas the Jaguar is (basically) British, therefore classy as you like!

    Yep, you're right, there's definitely a parallel there :)

    Regards,
    Denny

    # Using Linux in the UK? Check out Linux UK [linuxuk.co.uk]

  • Ah yes..it's a REAL computer cuz it runs WINDOWS® and has one of them new fangled floppy drive thingies in it...

    Haw haw!!

    Trolls are just so much fun!
  • I'm sorry - does lawsuit related to trademarked "trade dress" have anything to do with the DVD CSS?

    I didn't think so.

    Confusing a complicated case like DeCSS with one of simple trade dress is a travesty. It belittles the nature of the DeCSS, as trade dress is a very simple issue, and DeCSS is a very complicated one - rife with trade secrets, damages, and, of course, all the legal technicalities of the DMCA.
  • My comment to which this is attached has a rather out of context subject line. In fact it has the subject line from my previous Slashdot post ... all thanks to Mozilla on Linux mimicking that bullshit on Windwows where browsers prefill forms based on previous entries.

    Well, I'm going back to Navigator 3.04.


    Chris Wareham
  • Many people have said "hurray for Apple", and "Yes, they do have a unique design." Yes... Apple does. And they do have a right to copyright their design, etc...

    Trademark law is designed to allow brands to have something distinct so that clones can't fool a consumer into thinking he/she is getting the real product. This is similar to the idea behind not allowing people to wear police uniforms; technically I can wear whatever I want, but wearing a police uniform would make people think I have certain powers/rights that I don't.

    So the question is, not "did eMachines steal the look and feel of the iMac", but "do the eMachines look enough like the iMac to confuse consumers into thinking that they are purchasing an iMac, or looking at an iMac when they really are looking at an eOne.". I think that the eOne is distinct enough to not fool consumers (although clearly the iMac looks better). It does take advantage of the consumer desire for an all-in-one, stylized computer. Nothing wrong with that.

    Here's some pictures [macobserver.com] of the eOne, compared with this picture [apple.com] of an iMac. Again, I think they're different enough that the average consumer won't think it's an iMac. Which would make this not a trademark violation.

    Now, to address some other issues: people seem to think this is equivalent to trying to protect the "beige case" design. It is not. That is so generic that no one associates it with any specific company. However, if someone came out with a translucent cobalt-blue cube computer, they should get smacked down because people will confuse it with the Cobalt Cube.

    For something that I think is trademark violation, check this pilot look-a-like [casio.com] out...

  • Please timothy,

    For those of us who only have time to scan through the headlines, please put the 1 liner answer to the story in the headline.

    Let's please not let slashdot turn into one of the regular mass media news stations that spend most of their time announcing teasers to keep people tuned in thus brining in more advertising revenue.

    sincerely,
    donfede

  • It's of course the old style eOne that Apple has a case against.. and that's exactly why you can't find any pics of it.. why? It's illegal.

    - Henrik
  • I agree, Apple is worse than MS. Bad though MS is, if Apple were in Microsoft's monopoly position instead of MS I would expect the industry to be in far worse shape.

    it scares me to think that a company set up to redress the balance of technology in favbour of the user has developed practices that would not look out of place in the companies they used to vilify

    It's not just their pricing. Don't forget the "upgrade" patch for G3 machines that Apple urged all the G3 owners to install. The one that then secretly rendered the "upgraded" machines unable to use the then-upcoming G4 chips. And of course their blatantly misleading advertising. Integrity seems to be a unknown concept at Apple these days.

    I don't know about everyone else, but I think any noble spirit that may once have been at Apple left long ago. So I'm not terribly surprised that Apple pulls some of the crap it does. Apple's arrogance and generally shady practices are a couple of big reasons why I would never work for Apple.
  • Think this was posted awhile back, but this iron - Rowenta Sufline [rowentausa.com] - was around before the iMac. I'm sure there are other similar looks. What's next? Rectangular computer copyrights? Inovate, and build a good product. If you do it well you won't need the lawyers.
  • It was the winner of design of the year awards. I think it was unique enough to justify the patent. Anyone else could have taken the marketing risk and done it first. Why do you think Jobs announced it as "Insanely Great!"?
  • Once again, you guys get it wrong.

    The suit was not about copyright or patents. It was about "trade dress" which more akin to trademark. It's a fuzzy bit of law, but then again it's a fuzzy world.

    Jeez, I wish you weenies would read the damn articles and look up the big words that you don't understand in a dictionary before you post these things.
  • he whole issue of design patents is likely to raise strong feelings here on /. given most people here's unthinking hatred of patents and the rights of a company to protect its work.

    I think you're trolling, but just in case you're not (some people really believe what you just said), it deserves an answer.

    Nobody (well, nobody who matters ;-) is against companies protecting their work. The catch is that many of us consider their "work" to be the end product itself -- the instantiation, the expression, the implementation. But not the ideas behind that product. You can own the design of specific product, whether that's a Mac or a DVD player or whatever. It's the alleged ownership of the concepts that we don't acknowledge.

    Patents are there to ensure that corporations, the lifeblood of our nation, can protect themselves from their competitors. Anything which allows them to do so is a good thing and should be encouraged by anyone who cares about the future of our great nation. Without these and other measures allowing corporations the freedom to make profit we will end up like the countries of Europe where socialist policies have left children to starve on the streets as their parents aren't allowed to work, all for the sake of the "greater good".

    This is a hoot. You're saying that a market where there is competition leads to socialism? Methinks you have things exactly backwards. And profit isn't possible where there's competition?! Whoa.

    I haven't used an iMac, but I've use one of the blue'n'white minitowers. I can assure you that these products can stand on their own merits, and that consumers do have a reason to buy them. Apple does not need their look and feel protected.

    If anything, the US needs more protection for its corporations rather than less. Now we are at the beginnings of a truly global market we must ensure that our champions come out on top with their dealings with foreigners. It is only by doing this that we can make sure our children grow up in the greatest nation on Earth.

    Some people actually believe this. The funny thing is, that's a very un-American attitude. USA isn't the greatest nation on earth because it cowers in fear of foreign competition; it's the greatest because it has the right attitude, and dares others to try to compete. Or at least, that's what I thought...


    ---
  • The idea of owning ideas is just stupid.

    It's only stupid to someone who doesn't have any ideas of his own.

    -jon

  • Quick note...
    I believe Apples famous look and feel os lawsute predates the Lotus 123 lawsute.
    Apple spent a lot of time designning the MacOs look and feel and clones are basicly theft of this hard work.
    123s look and feel fell together and was never part of some grand design. Cloning is the greater effort.

    Apples computers do not (to me) seem remarkably diffrent from other hardware. Could Apple sue Digital? Becouse the iMac looks a lot like the Vt100 we have in storage.
    Put a clear case on a Vt100 and it would look identical to an iMac.

    This seems like looking far enough back and copying something someone did before and expecting everyone to forget who did it first...
  • by SONET (20808)
    Didn't Apple do this in 1984 with the original Macintosh? You know... that box I made a fishtank out of. :)

    Ohh yeah, and that one had a floppy drive too.

    Why is it that people have such a hard time giving Apple credit where credit is due? I'm no Apple zelot but you really have to hand it to them, like them or not - Apple had lots of 'firsts'.

    --SONET
  • >No machine before the iMac had any design similar to it, so it needs to protect something that it did create

    The only origional design to the iMac is the rounded translucent design. All-in-the-screen designs have existed for a long time (The origional Macs, Compaq made some PCs, etc)

    Maybe they should sue HP [hp.com] and TI [ti.com]. The HP49 [hp.com] is rounded and has a translucent cover. And look the these covers [ti.com] that TI sells for some of their calculators.

  • "People like Larry Wall who invent relativist languages for computers...are destroying the fabric of our society"

    That's got to be one of the funniest things i've seen on slashdot in a while. Forget about violent crime and the growing gap between the rich and poor, we've got to face the dangerous Perl issue head on.
  • Some cars [moller.com] look different. Some are different.
  • On the translucent plastic topic does anyone have an idea when the iDust came out? Namely, the horribly disgusting design Dixons uses for their vacuum cleaners: translucent plastic, aqua or tangerine. Sucks great. Literally of course.

    That vacuum cleaner that looks like an iMac definitely came out before the iMac. I distinctly remember the week Apple unveiled the iMac, I saw a comment on some forum pointing out the similarity between the iMac and the already existant iSuck.

  • Well, I could go down into the computer hall, but its a bit of a bother, so I may not remember exactly. Wyse made several models that were pretty close to the same shape as the iMac, I know we have one terminal, maybe Digital, that is almost exactly iMac shaped. Some of the older Sun machines were pretty close, but a lot bigger.

    Transparent cases, first one I saw must have been at CeBit in 90 or 91. Not many of the big vendors have sold them, but they've been common as 'designer cases' for roll-your-own peecees.
  • Actually, this case had nothing whatsoever to do with patentable designs. It is a (sortof extended) trademark issue.

    Apples design may in some way be new. Then again, packaging electronics in shiny curved transparent cases isnt exactly a new thing, so who knows. What we do know is that Emachines and Daewoo didnt consider it worth the trouble to find out.
  • Apple has always been worse than Microsoft in that specific aspect of behaviour, at least dating back to their famous look and feel lawsuit. They were during that time blacklisted by the FSF who asked people not to port GNU applications to the Macintosh platform. Microsoft is bad, mostly because they fight dirty, but Apple would be far worse because they love suing to the right and left. Of course, Sun would probably be on par with Apple, altho Sun is suffering from a bit of a split personality when it comes to litigation.
  • vor wrote: "Ha! Obiviously the author never used an iMac Mouse."

    (The author humbly admits that the iMac mouse and keyboard have rolled back Apple's purported ergonomic access by several years.)

    The first rounded Apple mice (the adb ones) were smooth and sweet, but the current iMac accessories are pretty atrocious.

    In my previous job, I used an iMate adaptor to use a real keyboard on my iMac -- a Northgate, same key action as an IBM. If it was only less wide it would be perfect.

    I also used a real mouse, at least as real as one-button mice get, through the ADB port on the Northgate.

    timothy
  • The reason this idea has become so unpopular lately is the time scale. The laws haven't caught up to Internet time at all.

    This is a MAJOR problem. If I recall, a patent lasts for 17 years (I may be wrong and I'm sure I will be corrected if I am, and I don't have time to "check my facts"). This is an eternity in High Tech terms. So when you are given a patent in IT, you essentially have been given complete ownership of that idea. If everyone owns ideas, that we can no longer share, then innovation is out the window!

    The most progress is done with free sharing of ideas. But everyone is complaining about how much effort it took them to get this idea and should be given a chance to make money from it. I agree you should, but that should only take about two years at most. The time of a patent for technologies should be dropped to two years. That's plenty of time to make money and it will then give a chance to enhance those ideas. With today's long term patents, by the time we can use the idea for free, it has essentially become obsolete.

    Second problem, as everyone knows, is the process of patenting everything. As with the Amazon 1-click crap.

    Now to get back on topic:

    Apples patent on "design" is questionable. (Note, from the article, it looks like it's talking about trademarks, but I read other comments showing that Apple has indeed filed a patent) If it is really ergonomically good, then it may be ok to patent. Since it made progress in comfort, and probably did have a good amount of R&D. But I still think that patents should be shorten.

    Now for Apple trademarking the design pattern, I have no problem with that. Trademarks are best for artistic designs of product identification. Of course I like the $20 Rolax I bought on the streets of NY ;^)


    Steven Rostedt
  • Oooh yeah, the PET. I always loved that vaguely "egyptian sphinx" look that machine had.


    --

    Greetings New User! Be sure to replace this text with a

  • Actually, trademark - and this suit, really, regardless of the IANAL exact legal argument presented - is different from other intangible properties/rights in that it exists to protect the consumer as much as the producer.

    If, by looking at a design, a layperson could be forgiven for confusing it with an original design done by someone else, that has as much danger of defrauding the consumer into buying the "wrong" thing as it does of doing economic harm to the creator of the original design. Anyone who's been to a NYC electronics store and seen boxes of televisions labelled "Panarsonic" knows exactly what I'm talking about. But the infringing companies don't have to intend consumer confusion for it to happen, and consumers want to be protected from it, no matter what the intentions of the makers.

    While this particular case may raise hackles with the ./ crowd, for reasons peculiar to the ./ ethos, no one marginally familiar with industrial design can be surprised or upset about this.

    This suit won't prevent anyone from making computers, or even from making rounded, one piece computers, or from making computers with translucent stuff, or from making computers in slurpee blue, or from making one that's the trendiest industrial design since the VW beetle in the 60's, or from making them so gosh darn cute you want to lick them, but it might make it difficult to do all these things at once. I don't think anyone is suffering for it.

    Personally, I'd like to see more butch, metallic, boldfaced, but elegantly designed industrial-looking computers, and fewer attempts to make them so cute 'n cuddly.

  • If you ask me, anybody who wants to make it look like they manufacture iFruits needs to take a good long look at their goals.

    Personally I dont really like the Macintosh computers or their OS, and I especially think they are evil when they put them in that disgusting shell. I dunno, maybe it's just that I once read in the bible that satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
  • A total waste, indeed. A key consideration of cases resulting from this precedent will be opinion, not objective fact. Therefore, these cases are likely to be longer and more expensive than comparable cases involving more fact and less "feel".

    Thank you Lotus, now of IBM, for giving us the "Look and feel" copyright lawsuits -- which blazed the trail for this.
  • > Oh, you mean that red metalic sphere on your desk is your new Athlon?

    If I could get a case like that that was also easy to work inside of, I'd love it. I personally don't really go for the comic-strip style of the iMac (though I like the BeOS interface, go figure :), but I WOULD like to see much more interesting case designs! Why does the darn thing have to be a box? Someone above mentioned a silvery pyramid case style, that would be cool too (though I think a metallic red sphere is cooler :)

    Sponge
  • Whereas "classic" FUD tries to sneak a few lies in among a bunch of truths or mostly-truths, this guy is associating his first point (a valid one) with several ridiculous statements in order to discredit the valid point.

    Bravo! :P

    Sponge
  • Oakley also has 441 patents on its various sunglasses. And with every rip-off out there they are bringing their asses to court and have won hundreds of such lawsuits.
  • Although this is the company who's ex director recovered from parkinsons after being let out of gaol early on grounds of ill health...

    I think it was Alzheimers, wasn't it? Anyway, not that important.

    Personally I think the artist should have won.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I would like to announce my intentions to patent the "beige" computer look. Any other company violating my patent on the "beige" style of computer case, or using the word "beige" to describe their case will be prosecuted by my hordes of angry lawyers.

    You have been warned.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Try starting up a shop to build cars with the classic lines of a Ferrari, and see how many seconds you last.

    Agreed. The precedent has long been set. Porsche prides themselves on the fact that the distinctive outline of the 911 is protected and cannot be copied.

    Coke has their distinctive bottle shape protected. Remember when they did the 2L bottles that way in the States (they still do in Canada)? Pepsi couldn't directly copy that.

    I guarantee that Aunt Jemima's unique bottle shape is also trademarked.

    As an interesting non-computer sidenote, I'll be interested to see how Porsche fights Toyota on their MR2 which steals several design cues from the Boxster. (Every review I've seen also calls it the "Toyota Boxster".) I can pretty much guarantee you that the precedent set long before will continue to be enforced and this isn't some new idea raised by computing technology.

    Oh, and yes, these things are subjective. That's why we have a jury. What better way to decide something subjective than to ask 12 people whether they think object A looks enough like object B to cause confusion.

    -Derek
    i-grub.com [i-grub.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    And damn right too. Companies like Apple which put their valuable time and effort into producing a product as innovative as the iMac then they should be allowed to protect their product from others who seek to cash in on it.

    The whole issue of design patents is likely to raise strong feelings here on /. given most people here's unthinking hatred of patents and the rights of a company to protect its work. Patents are there to ensure that corporations, the lifeblood of our nation, can protect themselves from their competitors. Anything which allows them to do so is a good thing and should be encouraged by anyone who cares about the future of our great nation. Without these and other measures allowing corporations the freedom to make profit we will end up like the countries of Europe where socialist policies have left children to starve on the streets as their parents aren't allowed to work, all for the sake of the "greater good".

    If anything, the US needs more protection for its corporations rather than less. Now we are at the beginnings of a truly global market we must ensure that our champions come out on top with their dealings with foreigners. It is only by doing this that we can make sure our children grow up in the greatest nation on Earth.

  • Ummm... so if I'm understanding this right, Apple used TM and C to sue Daewoo and eMachines. And timothy, who posted this, goes off on a rant about how patents can ruin things. I think it's pretty clear that if you design a revolutionary computer, then wholesale copying of that design hurts the innovator, and provides nothing to the customers; look at how many all-in-ones have made it past Apple (all the ones that weren't blattently iMac clones), and then ask why a clone is needed.

  • But then you have to add back in the color and shape, and that's the bulk of Apple's suit. The lop-sided trianglar prism shape, with colored translucent panels, all which was a unique design. Apple was protecting itself along the lines off "If you see a machine like this, it's a iMac made by Apple".

    Comparing a beige Mac and an iMac is like comparing a Pinto to a Jaguar - both machines have the same functionality under the hood, but their outward appearence is the unique factor (give or take a few horsepower :D).

  • No kidding. I was *AMAZED* when I saw the iMac mouse for the first time. Here's a company that for years was espousing the virtues of ergonomics and good UI design. They come out with a "revolutionary" (ha!) new computer design -- and the mouse takes a 10 year step back in time.

    Hell, it's worse than that - the "hockey puck" is actually less comfortable than that old block that came with the Mac Classic.

    One of my coworkers is a Mac guy (I'm PC/Linux for the most part, except for Photoshop/Illustrator) and got one of the iMac-styled G3s. Nice comp. Fast and snappy for the most part, and if they'd remove the "handles" the thing would look pretty snazzy as well.

    What floored him was the keyboard/mouse. Tiny laptop-style keyboard, and a hockey puck mouse.

    He has since replaced the mouse with an older Mac mouse (which is much more ergonomic) though he has been eyeing my Intellimouse Explorer lately (say what you will about M$ - that mouse kicks serious a$$).

    The keyboard is the same one that ships with the iMacs -- it feels like a laptop keyboard. He says he got used to it after a while, but I'll keep my 10 pound huge footprint IBM keyboard, thanks. =)

  • Hey - go for it.

    I for one would LOVE to see black take over as the "normal" color for cases -- hell, even that dark slate grey (Palm Grey?) would work nicely as a "neutral" PC color, and would look much better than beige.

    Anyone know how Beige (of all colors) got decided on? Earliest beige one I remember was the old Apple II (but I think it was a bit darker beige than PC beige is today...)

    My next comp is going to have one of those funky stylized cases - but NO translucent plastic (ick!)
  • Try starting up a shop to build cars with the classic lines of a Ferrari, and see how many seconds you last.

    Companies do just that. Look on the web for replica Ferraris, Jaguars and Lamborghinis.
    Chris Wareham

  • Ahh yes.. didn't the Australian Yellow Pages try to copyright their shade of yellow, used as simple rgb on web pages?

    The Unix world will oneday sue Microsoft for their inappropriate use of ANSI on MS-DOS, not to mention the simple black and white console colors.

    Perhaps if I were to make a computer that looks like an oven, smells like an oven (hell, even bakes like an oven) the kind people at General Electric will sue me for recreating their 50 year old patentented look and feel?

    EraseMe
  • The rip-off artists basically shot themselves in the foot by: a) not doing their research on trade dress law, and b) mouthing off to the press.

    That touches on the part that really annoys me about this case. I think, deep down, it's at the root of everyone's disturbance with these computer makers' choices:

    Daewoo and E-Machines made the decision to invest in legal expenses rather than in a creative effort.

    In the end, the courts discerned this, and shut them down. It's not just a victory for Apple, it's a victory for Creativity in the marketplace.

  • It is a little late to be responding, however, if you had bothered to read the post to which I responded you would have noticed that I was answering a specific question regarding DeCSS with a pointer to where the reader could get the answers they were (presumably) looking for. The reader may indeed have confused the DeCSS issue with the "Trade Dress" issue of this thread, however, three is absolutely nothing in my post, or the site [opendvd.org] I referred them to, which would have led to their confusion.

    The original questioner can clarify whatever "confusion" they may have on the issue be reading a wealth of material at the aforementioned site [opendvd.org]. It is a stretch reaching lightyears to assign any level of additional confusion to my short post, and perhaps more representative of your own confusion than anyone else's.

    Finally, if you define referring someone with a question to a reasonably authoritative source on the subject to be sowing confusion, then perhaps that explains the arrogant, and confused, content of your own rather bitter reply.
  • No.

    (The short answer.)

    http://opendvd.org [opendvd.org]

    (Why the answer is "No", with all the facts and details you could ever want.)
  • You are absolutely correct about the shape. It has been with the industry in the 80-es and before and was forgotten in favour of the disgusting IBM PC design which is a badly revamped industrial controller.

    On the translucent plastic topic does anyone have an idea when the iDust came out? Namely, the horribly disgusting design Dixons uses for their vacuum cleaners: translucent plastic, aqua or tangerine. Sucks great. Literally of course.

  • They cannot

    The translucent junk has been around long before the Imac. The first time I was offered a translucent aqua rodent was in 1995 if not even earlier. Manufactured by one of the numerous Taiwanese companies, forgot which one.

    And I told the retailer to go stuff it. I'd rather buy beige. Or black for the matter.

    In btw: neither the NeXT black nor the SGI blue have been ever defended as designs. And they have much better looks than the iroast. See the new Aptivas, IBM thin clients and SGI boxen for examples.

  • They can't. Prior art. Sorry, no bonus.
  • Yes it did. Citroen on someone trying to copy "the eyes" off the frog in the 1960es. And successfully. The interesting part is that Citroen itslef abandoned the "eyes" style headlight design in their newer models.

    Saab and a few others also have some history of such demands. And they have almost always been successful.

  • because of all the damn frivolous patent/trademark/copyright lawsuits lately it seems like people are jumping all over Apple for defending their design. In my opinion Apple has every right to defend their original design. When I first saw the eOne I laughed my ass off because I thought "wow what an iMac knock-off". It isn't like Apple is trying to patent the all-in-one computer idea, they are merely trying to prevent market confusion. Look at the Toyota Celica and the Mitsubishi Eclipse, depending on what model you see it can be hard to tell the two cars apart, which creates product confusion. Whichever company came up with the design's shape first could conceivably say "Hands off dude, no dinero no toke" and file a lawsuit.
  • Ah yes, the restorative powers of the British judicial system, current poster boy one A. Pinochet, of Santiago, Chile. If I ever get sick, I'll just do a bank in London...
  • The translucent junk has been around long before the Imac. The first time I was offered a translucent aqua rodent was in 1995 if not even earlier. Manufactured by one of the numerous Taiwanese companies, forgot which one.

    Uh, but what does this have to do with anything? The existence of a translucent aqua rodent doesn't have much to do with a copyright-protected design for a one-piece PC using two colors of plastic, a distinctive shape, and a crappily shaped mouse. :-)

    Again, seriously, you can't copyright an idea but only particular expressions of an idea. And then the big question is whether two particular copyright-protected expressions, A, and B, differ enough from each other that neither one infringes on the other. In the Apple/emachines case, emachines admitted that their intention was to mimic the Apple design. I don't think you could ask for a better situation if you were Apple's lawyers. But I suspect that there are many iMac-like designs that would not infringe.

    In btw: neither the NeXT black nor the SGI blue have been ever defended as designs.

    Uh, perhaps they were never infringed upon during the time when anybody could care? I personally never saw another black magnesium cube or swooshy blue pizza box from any other manufacturer. On the other hand, the design of the NeXT file selector widget was copied, and NeXT was very noisy about that.

    And they have much better looks than the iroast. See the new Aptivas, IBM thin clients and SGI boxen for examples.

    Not sure I follow you. SGI can't infringe on their own trademarks, while I don't see a huge resemblence between the IBM boxes and much of anything else. Certainly not to the degree that the eMachines PC cloned the superficial look of the iMac.

    Oh yeah: IANAL.

  • No kidding. I was *AMAZED* when I saw the iMac mouse for the first time. Here's a company that for years was espousing the virtues of ergonomics and good UI design. They come out with a "revolutionary" (ha!) new computer design -- and the mouse takes a 10 year step back in time.

    No, that's not a terribly good mouse. The first ones were completely horrible; no tactile feedback at all that you were holding it crooked. The newer ones, weirdly enough, are much better: they put this dimply thing on the "front" so you can easily tell you're holding it crooked. That makes a big difference. Of course, it's still pretty lame to make the thing so easy to grab crooked in the first place...

    The keyboard is the same one that ships with the iMacs -- it feels like a laptop keyboard. He says he got used to it after a while, but I'll keep my 10 pound huge footprint IBM keyboard, thanks.

    Now, I'm not supremely picky about keyboards despite being a pretty good (>70 wpm) touch typist. I was pretty sure I'd hate the iMac keyboard, since it seemed lame at the store. But since I've used it at home at a work station with a keyboard shelf, I have to admit that it isn't really any problem. I certainly don't miss all the extra keypad/Print Screen crappiness on the side, and having a narrower keyboard means the mouse is closer to my hand. It's still in the "penalty zone", (Tom Christiansen's term) but not nearly as much so as with a "battleship" keyboard.

    Now, if you want to know what's really lame about the iMac design, it's the confusability of the modem port and the ethernet jack combined with the expectation that a modem has both a line in and a line out.

  • *Companies* ultimately exist for the sole purpose of making *money*. Apple has made *money* on the iMac, like it or not. Other *companies* see this and they too want to make *money*. Therefore they copy the iMac to make... *money*. That is their *goal*, afterall, and I think they did have a long look at their *goals* because they probably started a *company* to make *money*.

    Is there something difficult here that you missed or perhaps I'm missing? :)

    --SONET (in a smart-ass mood because there's no coffee to be had around here)
  • imagine if you can't copyright designs... Then every single car on the highway is going to start looking exactly like Ferrari's, Porsches, Diablos, ... :-)
  • Anyone know how Beige (of all colors) got decided on?

    Sometime in the middle part of this century there was a big trend towards "efficiency" in office environments. Studies found that being surrounded by beige makes you a more efficient and productive worker drone. When PCs made their way into the world, they were made to fit in with the other office equipment.

  • What patent? There is no patent, neither would it be likely to be patentable. This was a settlement over a possible trademark infringement.
  • >Was anyone else designing iMac like computers before the iMac came out?

    Well, not the _exact_ same design that I know of the top of my head, but...

    Basic shape; yep, been done. Its an almost exact clone of several terminal types, and pretty close to a shrunken version of several computer types that have been around since late 80's early 90's.

    Transparent cases (in colors); yep, been done. Been around since a loooong time.

    A combination? Hmmm... is that really a design innovation? Would the Basic shape or Transparent cases people be able to sue? If it is, does it apply to putting a Mac inside such a case, or any computer? Would putting an x86 computer in a transparent case of that shape be a new thing or not?

    My guess is that Apples suit would not have been upheld in the end, theres far too much previous art, just like the bellbottoms. Then again, the emachines and daewoo clones were _obviously_ trying to make a buck off it, so maybe it would have been upheld. Had someone come around a year or two later with the same design? No way would Apple have a case.
  • This is different from fashions. Fashions are usually based on standard looks. The iMac was an attempt to totally redefine the look.

    and every so often, someone comes out with a new look. Maybe it's a new fabric, maybe it's a new garment. I belive that Vivian Westwood was the first to come out with punk, yet soon many people were doing it. Once the bikini didn't exist, now it does.

    Expensive fashion shows try to completely redesign the entire look of clothes. Any designer that copied another would immediately lose all credit for origionality.

    There are many designers who are paid to design clothes for chain stores etc who are paid to mimic the latest paris fashion styles. The designer for Kmart, or the Delta Burke collection is not paid to win awards for originallity, they're paid to produce functional clothing at the price range dictated by their sponser.

    This is no different to the cases above. Apple was the original designer, making high priced stuff for a select few, and there were many people deciding that this new fashion was something they wanted to sell, so they paid their designers to design something inspired by the original.

    Cars are allowed to all look the same because all cars look the same. If GM were to copy the looks of the GT40 then yes, Ford should get upset.

    I hate to break it to you, but PC's do all look the same, within a few basic types. Pretty much the same as cars. A few years ago one company introduced the minivan, a new look in cars. Within a few years, all the major car manufacturers had a minivan, with the almost identical new shape. A few years ago one company introduced the translucent case with colour highlights, a new look in computers. Within a few years, all the major computer manufacturers had introduced a similar case.

  • Apple spent time and money coming up with the design of the iMac, and came up with something that looked great, so people wanted to buy it. If you copy that design, you're living off their time and money, and someone else's design vision. They should have some law -- be it copyright, design, or trademark -- to protect their work

    Why? It's just a fashion. It's no different to big fashion designers deciding that bell bottoms are in, and other fashion designers designing bell bottoms.

    Cars are all basically the same shape nowadays, with the few exceptions being obvious exceptions. Should Ford be able to sue GM because Ford was the first to use a particular shaped door?

    Films often come in batches of similar themes. Should the producers of Armageddon be able to sue the producers of Deep impact because they're both about asteroids hitting the earth?

    Just because you spent time doing something does not stop others from spending their time doing something similar.

  • Design patents protect only the ornamental features of an apparatus. It is a defense to a design patent claim that the scope of the patent embraces utilitarian features. The article incorrectly suggests that patents for a design are not subject to examination -- the design must be novel, original and ornamental, and this includes the unobviousness standard set forth in Section 103 of the Patent Act. 35 U.S.C. s. 171.

    Trade dress and product configuration protection under the Lanham Act and common law of most states is not new by any means. The configuration, for example, of the Fantastic spray-bottle was the subject of a landmark case decades ago. A Supreme Court case addressing trade dress, Two Pesos v. Taco Cabana, made clear that designs would be treated under the trademark act just as names, logos and other configurations. The Supreme Court is presently revisiting that very question to flesh out this issue.

    As with design patents, it is an absolute defense to a claim of unfair competition or trademark infringement that a design is functional.

    The issue under all these theories (simplifying to some extent) is whether the consumers would be confused as to the source or origin of the respective products. With design patents, the analysis is similar.

    It is highly unlikely that transparent computers would infringe per se, even taking the broadest view of these applicable laws. The question is whether the design is distinctive, embodies substantial good will, and whether the defendant has tried to usurp that good will by its conduct.

    While these oversimplifications of the law are not entirely accurate, it does fairly characterize the applicable standards. As you can see, Apple had a case. Perhaps the defendants also had a case. That is what the courts are all about. The law in this area is sound, designed to protect the marketplace for free and fair competition, the consumer as well as the intellectual property owner.

    Yes, it is possible to wildly overreach in this arena, as with any other claim at law. This doesn't appear to be such a case.
  • Here [tmps.co.uk]is an overview of the law in the UK. What can be trademarked is astonishing: Slogans, Logos, Words, Packaging, Smells, and Sounds.

    There was a notorious case a few years ago regarding the Jif lemon packaging (for those who don't know this is lemon juice in a bottle the shape of a lemon). Jif applied for and got protection on the lemon, and sucessfully took a supermarket to court to stop them selling (or rather, passing-off) their version of lemon-juice-in-a-lemon. This was in 1990, so it's fairly old and established practice.

    So in this context the success of Apple getting and enforcing a registered design on the iMac isn't too much of a surprise. (I know it's a different juristiction, but trademark and design rules are pretty homogeneous throughout the west).

    More than you would ever want to know about Designs and trademarks can be found here [aippi.org].

    Personally I don't think that they have that good a case - the idea of these design registrations is distinctiveness and to prevent passing off. I don't think that the purchaser of the Daewoo products thought they were buying an iMac. Obviously the judge disagreed.

  • Volkswagon beetle (Score:1) by mrfiddlehead (mrfiddlehead@yahoo.co.uk) on Thursday March 09, @07:32AM EST (#15) (User Info) Did anyone else notice a passing resemblance, a certain, je ne sais quois, between the new Volkswagon beetle and the iMac?

    If anyone recalls the dumb terminal days of the '70's, they should readily recognize the iMac as a straight rip-off of the ADDS Viewpoint and older Data General terminals. The form factor is nearly identical and if I was DG or ADDS, I'd be crawling up Apple's backside.

    The only innovation in the iMac's "trade dress" is the use of the translucent plastics. The shape has been around the computer industry for 25 years.

  • I figured they were close enough for a lawsuit for sure (even wondered about that when Apple started sueing).
    I wonder if maybe Gateway hasn't licenced the look from Apple for some $.
  • Does anyone know why they're not suing Gateway [gateway.com] for their Astro [gateway.com]
    PC?
  • The Rowenta Surfline iRon [theapplecollection.com] existed years before the iMac, so shouldn't Apple rather pay some license fees to Rowenta? And btw, looked from closeby, the iMac is butt ugly.
  • You don't own the ideas ... everyone just agrees to grant you a temporary monopoly on your ideas so that you can make some money off them. The idea is to make it advantageous to release your ideas into the wild.

    The reason this idea has become so unpopular lately is the time scale. The laws haven't caught up to Internet time at all. The other reason is the rampant corporatism and croneyism, like Disney getting the copyright law changed so that Mickey Mouse doesn't become public property.

    But really, this has nothing to do with the iMac trade dress thing. Essentially, these companies were making counterfeit iMacs in order to fool people who are ignorant about computers into mistakenly buying their machines instead of the iMac. If you can defend that ... well, okay.
  • Guess that's why it sold so few huh? After all, everyone knows it's a hunk of junk and ugly to boot.
    ---

  • After Daewoo and Emachines, Apple Computer is going after Rowenta [jokewallpaper.com] ...
  • While I have no great feeling one way or another about Apple Patenting or tradmarking a design I have to disagree that what they have done is original. Back in the 80's in the UK Amstrad produce several machines under the PCW brand that consisted of a Monitor with everything inside (though no hard disk). 1 or 2 3" floppy drives, a printer and an expansion port. It ran a dedicated wordprocesor or cpm. A useful first machine in those days, it cost about £400 (approx $700 at that time). I still have mine somewhere. While The imac may look slightly better ( with its streamlined case and bright colour) it is not much different. And if I remember the Imac doesn't even have a floppy drive!

    Dr Morbius - Mad scientist - Expedition Philologist, UFPSV Bellerophon

  • I think the imac design is 'pretty' and artistic, but Steve Jobs can stop patting himself on the back for it. He took a risk that people would like it and buy it and it paid off, he was lucky.

    I remember in the early 90's Crutchfield was selling PC's in both the usual beige, and in BLACK. They were the same black as stereo components and looked pretty hot IMHO. But I don't think the idea caught with anyone else, because I didn't see the idea spread.

    In the 80's Yamaha sold their receivers in both silver and black for the same price, you could take your pic. But everyone bought black and noone wanted silver. After that they only sell black now.

    I'm more concerned with what's inside a computer than how it looks. I stare at a monitor all day, not a case.

  • It's important to understand how Trademarks work. That is really the foundation for this. This is not a copyright or patent issue.

    A trademark is a way to identify the source of products and services. It is meant to protect consumers more than the business holding the trademark. The question of trademark violation comes down to one simple question, "will consumers be confused into thinking a product or service they are purchasing is actually the product or service of a company other than the one they are purchasing it from?"

    A very large majority of people shown an eOne computer will look at it and think, "hey, that's an iMac!" This is a very clear case of consumer confusion and it is all that Apple needs to prove in order to win a trademark violation case.

    This is entirely different from a copyright. Apple can copyright photos of their computers or the manuals for their computers, or even the software on the computer, but the computer itself is not subject to copyright laws.

    Patent laws, while similar to trademark laws, also serve a completely different function... specifically that of function. You may patent a device or process. You can't patent a 'look'.

    Here is a good site [netcom.com] with links to all sorts of Patent and Trademark information. Recommended reading for most of the people posting here since there seems to be a lot of confusion over what this case is really about.

  • If anyone recalls the dumb terminal days of the '70's, they should readily recognize the iMac as a straight rip-off of the ADDS Viewpoint and older Data General terminals. The form factor is nearly identical and if I was DG or ADDS, I'd be crawling up Apple's backside.

    The only innovation in the iMac's "trade dress" is the use of the translucent plastics. The shape has been around the computer industry for 25 years.

    A central point is being missed; namely that Apple's design doesn't have to be innovative or original in order for their claim in this matter to be valid.

    This is not a case over patents, where the matter under patent must be original and non-obvious. Nor is it a case over copyrights, where the creator is the first owner of the copyright.

    This is a case about trade dress, where I'd guess that a lot of principles of trademark law still apply. Trademark law is a Good Thing; it protects both the company and the consumer against deception.

    This decision does not mean "you can't sell a computer that looks like an iMac." It means "you can't sell a computer that looks so much like an iMac that consumers may buy yours thinking they are buying an iMac."

    Sure, it would be clearer what eMachines and Daewoo were attempting if they marked their products as "Appell" computers or with a bitten-fruit logo. But these are not the only ways to imitate another company's product to the point where you are damaging both the other company and the customers you trick. The court's injunction means that, in their opinion, eMachines and Daewoo went far enough in imitating the iMac that it might have fooled customers.

    By the way -- who has actually seen the computers under discussion? I have; I've seen the eOne at the local Circuit City. If I wasn't computer-literate, and didn't know exactly what an iMac should look like besides 'translucent plastics in blue and white single-unit computer', then I might be fooled.

  • Hats off to Apple for making their iMAC look more interesting than anything else on the market.

    However:
    How relevant is this copy-chasing legal brigade when you consider that the eONE, which may have looked almost identical to the iMAC when it was first shown (very little difference in fact) , was then revised to look as the product does now on their website [e4me.com] compared to the iMAC [apple.com] (please spare me the 'Future of the Internet :)

    It is clear that the eONE has been substatially restyled to avoid having the lines and general 'look' of the iMAC: How can Apple say that this is a copy violation? Compaq, Dell, Olivetti, IBM, Fujitsu etc all might as well start taking each other to court over who owns rights to the 'grey box on the desk' design.

    At the end of the day though, it seems obvious that the eONE brought this upon itself, by setting out looking so much like the iMAC, a restyle late on wasn't going to save it in the eyes of the Apple lawyers.

    My appologys for not being able to find a picture of the original eONE design :)
  • Athough this all depends on whether the design is a registered Trademark or a copyrighted origonal design.

    I know packaging is subject to fair trade law. When at United Biscuits we sued a supermarket for attempting to pass off a biscuit as Penguin (TM) biscuits by creating a product similar, calling it puffin and broadly copying the design brief. We won, but because there was deemed to be a attempt to pass their product. With the i-mac they seem to have won a case on copyright of design alone, which as I said is a pretty difficult one to argue.

    Like your exaple of the Jiff, it is a case of passing, whereas with i-mac it was intellectual rather than commercial... Hmmmm.

  • Did anyone else notice a passing resemblance, a certain, je ne sais quois, between the new Volkswagon beetle and the iMac? Something about the lines that makes me think about that car whenever I see an iMac. I wonder whose inspiration the iMac designers were drawing on when they came up with this thing. Then again I cannot really imagine why, other than laziness, that anyone would want to clone of an iMac let alone own one. To whit, blech!
  • This is different from fashions. Fashions are usually based on standard looks. The iMac was an attempt to totally redefine the look.

    The bell bottom is a standard design thats been around for years. If I came up with a totally new look for an item of clothing, I would be upset is someone else copied me. Expensive fashion shows try to completely redesign the entire look of clothes. Any designer that copied another would immediately lose all credit for origionality.

    Cars are allowed to all look the same because all cars look the same. If GM were to copy the looks of the GT40 then yes, Ford should get upset.

    Films are allowed to be the same if they come in batches of similar themes. Armageddon obviously wasn't an origional idea since Deep Impact was in production at the same time. Was anyone else designing iMac like computers before the iMac came out? What if I was to make a film about a bunch of Roughnecks saving the Earth from an asteroid? Am I allowed to?

    Just because you spent time doing something does not stop others from spending their time doing something similar.

    Absolutely. People should spend their time coming up with a new look, rather than spending no time at all copying the look of something thats been done before. If they designed their machines as silver pyramids with a CD-Rom at the top, and connectors on the front then that would have been worthwhile, and Apple should not have been allowed to copy them.
  • >>Given Apple's emphasis on ergonomics


    Ha! Obiviously the author never used an iMac Mouse.
  • So I can actually own a shape! This is great news. I have these design ideas I call 'cube', 'triangle' and 'ball'.
  • by AftanGustur (7715) on Thursday March 09, 2000 @03:38AM (#1215896) Homepage

    Apple's patent on "Computer Enclosure", can be downloaded from HERE [ibm.com].
    --
    Why pay for drugs when you can get Linux for free ?
  • by dublin (31215) on Thursday March 09, 2000 @11:38AM (#1215897) Homepage
    The points in my original submission or this story were edited by the /. staff - most of it was done quite well and added important content, but a couple of things were lost.

    I made the point that the CNET article did not explicitly reference design patents, but I expected that Apple and others had them and could be expected to enforce them, sometimes to the detriment of consumers. The point was to open a more general discussion of alternative mechanisms which could be used to render technologies proprietary. (Remember the big flap a couple of years ago - Motorola sued Qualcomm for building a phone that folded, saying it violated their design patents on the StarTAC. Fortunately, the courts ruled that MOT couldn't own the generic idea of a folding phone (since everyone knew, and their product name even alluded to, the fact that they stole the idea from Star Trek.) Still, the MOT attack delayed QCOM's Q-phone until it was no longer a serious competitive threat. Not that that's hurt their stock price any...[grin])

    You're right that the CNET article doesn't have anything to do with patents, but I was intentionally trying to raise the issue of some of these other mechanisms by which we can expect companies large and small to attempt to excercise control or block competitors. As I was quoted in Timothy's post, I'm particularly concerned about potential abuse of design patents. (BTW, I am on record here on /. as a heretic (being in general a supporter of our current patent system) and feel strongly that much of the "reform" wanted by the community here would simply remove any viable protections for small/startup/entrepreneurial companies while leaving the large ones protected by thier inherent economic/political might. For all its warts, the US patent system is one of the most effective systems in history to ensure a level playing field for all, so we should tamper with it only with extreme caution and certainty.)

    Also, my article submission indicated that I thought this particular decision was well-justified, since there was a clear attempt to copy the iMac, even though I don't think for a minute that anyone would confuse these Windows boxes for real Macintoshes. Still, even if a good call in this case, this could be a slippery slope since it is necessarily subjective.

    Finally, if this sort of limitation becomes viewed as effective, I raised the spectre of ID squatters protecting everything they can think of this way and then selling all the good and necessary ones off to the highest bidder. (I considered doing this myself a number of years ago, since PDA's still don't have nearly the functionality I described in writing nearly a decade ago. If I'm not going to get venture money myself, then I could at least sue someone who did - but that's really cheezy now isn't it? And yes, in that context, a "z" in "cheezy" seems just right...)

    The point of discussion I was trying to provoke is, "Are there any effective safegaurds against abuse of other parts of our IP system that may not have recieved as much scrutiny as patents for software?"

    In this context, in contrast to what some other posters seem to think, this topic is appropriate for /., and does, in fact, matter.

    Oh, and for the record, I think most of these clear and whatever things are kind of ugly, although the ones that are plain clear (no other colors, like the Palm IIIe) are interesting. And as an aside, it's a shame Apple didn't learn from DEC's experience with puck mice - they used them on their VAXstations and DECstations at least up until the Alpha came out, and they also were a pain to grab and use without looking.
  • by scumdamn (82357) on Thursday March 09, 2000 @05:04AM (#1215898)
    Perhaps if I were to make a computer that looks like an oven, smells like an oven (hell, even bakes like an oven)
    I did that with my Celeron 300A a while back.
  • by Mononoke (88668) on Thursday March 09, 2000 @05:41AM (#1215899) Homepage Journal
    Check out the iBeetle. [mindvision.com]

    Maybe.

    Maybe not.


    --

  • by uqbar (102695) on Thursday March 09, 2000 @05:31AM (#1215900)
    The initial post and the responses show that most people don't know the difference between Copyright, Trademark, and Patents. A trademark is totally different from a copyright. If you are doing trade or performing services under an identity, that identity can be protected. That identity can be stuff like your company name, logo, tag lines, colors and in Apple's or Coke's case the look of your product package. You can't trademark it unless you're using it in business. If you want to go the next step you can spend the money to register your trademark and you then get to change your little TM to an R. Copyright is about protecting a creative work, not a business identity. It can be a written work, a drawing, or a song - or a recording of a song which gets a (p) instead of a (c). Technically anything you create is instantly copyrighted the second you create it, but of course you probably still want to take better measures than that. Patent is about protecting inventions/innovations and has already been explained to death here. Suffice it to say it performs a different purpose and getting a patent is a different process with different results.
  • by Yaruar (125933) on Thursday March 09, 2000 @02:22AM (#1215901)
    I'm suprised at this, most copyright cases in this country when based around asthetic fall through, dunno if the states are different.

    The classic example is the case against Guiness who were sued by an artist who showed them a dance piece he had created for one of their advert campaigns.

    Guiness rejected this and went on to make the advert anyway with subtle differences, although with the concept and execution almost the same.

    The artist lost the claim.

    Although this is the company who's ex director recovered from parkinsons after being let out of gaol early on grounds of ill health...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 09, 2000 @02:48AM (#1215902)
    A key consideration of cases resulting from this precedent will be opinion, not objective fact. Therefore, these cases are likely to be longer and more expensive than comparable cases involving more fact and less "feel".

    Thank you Lotus, now of IBM, for giving us the "Look and feel" copyright lawsuits -- which blazed the trail for this.

    No they didn't. This has nothing to do with "look and feel" -- it's about the patentable design of a designed object. Try starting up a shop to build cars with the classic lines of a Ferrari, and see how many seconds you last.

    Apple spent time and money coming up with the design of the iMac, and came up with something that looked great, so people wanted to buy it. If you copy that design, you're living off their time and money, and someone else's design vision. They should have some law -- be it copyright, design, or trademark -- to protect their work

    More broadly, why does slashdot give a fuck? This isn't a software patent, or an algorithm patent. Nobody's ability to write code has been compromised. It's still possible to produce copies of the iMac which will run its software -- but they won't look like iMacs, because they won't be iMacs. There is no sense in which preventing people from ripping off designers is infringing freedom of speech.

    If people have a problem with patents in general, let them make it. But please don't hijack the cause of opposition to software patents for your ideological crusade. Get the classic car enthusiasts on your side, or something. The iMac's deisgn is not information. It's not code. It doesn't want to be free.

  • by maggard (5579) <michael@michaelmaggard.com> on Thursday March 09, 2000 @07:26AM (#1215903) Homepage Journal
    As others have noted Coca Cola long ago patented it's bottle design. Harley has done so for the growl their motorcycles make. I forget which but one of the pharmacuticals (Advil?) has patented the color of their pills. None of these are functionial improvements and thus are patentable. One can still use the Coke bottle shape, just not as a bottle. One can still growl, just your non-Harley motorcycle can't growl precisely like a Harley, and you can use whatever pill color it is anywhere else you want, just not in a pill.

    So Apple now owns the idea of a tranlucent-polycarbonate-ovoid PC. I see no problem with this. While many folks are claiming Apple has patented the all-in-one PC they haven't - just their particular (and very distinctive/very unique) take on it. Should someone else come out with a glittery-squishy palmtop (the Koosh-top?) they can patent that.

    Nationial Public Radio's Friday, March 05, 1999 "Talk of the Nation" program has an excellent over-view of the issue. Their program blurb reads:

    In the past, only tangible things could receive a patent--things like lawnmowers or mousetraps. But in the new knowledge-based economy ideas, techniques, and even our DNA can be patented. Who wins when vital information becomes private property? Is the patent process stifling innovation or fostering it? In this hour, we'll discuss patents and the patenting process. Guests: Todd Dickinson Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce Acting Commissioner Patents and Trademarks Arlington, Virginia Rebecca Eisenberg Professor of Law University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Michigan Seth Shulman Author, Owning the Future (Houghton Mifflin) Boston, Massachusetts.
    The URL is http://search.npr.org/cf/cmn /cmnps05fm.cfm?SegID=46445 [npr.org] and the direct link for the audio recording (requires RealAudio) is http://www.npr.org/ramfiles/t otn/19990305.totn.02.ram [npr.org] (includes a Linux rant near the end.)

    -- Michael

    BTW - the Koosh ball is also patented

  • by SvnLyrBrto (62138) on Thursday March 09, 2000 @03:40AM (#1215904)

    Coca Cola sucesfully sued, under the same "trade dress" laws Apple is using to go after Daewoo or eMachines or whoever, to protect the SHAPE of the Coca Cola bottle!

    That's probably the precident Apple used in the case. That and the fact that the iMac knockoff artist company ADMITTED IN A PRESS RELEASE that they were going to try to ride the wave of the iMac to sucess.

    The rip-off artists basically shot themselves in the foot by: a) not doing their research on trade dress law, and b) mouthing off to the press.

    Also, did you know that UPS has a patent (or trademark, I forget which) on that brown color they use for everything from their trucks to their uniforms? Yup. No one else can legally use "UPS Puke Brown", without UPS's permission.

    And, from the looks of some of the other posts, it appears that Slashdot has to be reminded again:

    Under copyright/trademark law, if you do not aggressively defend your intellectual property, you LOSE the rights to that same property!

    Apple has NO CHOISE but to go after those who would violate it's trademarks. Nor does anyone else who produces intellectual property. Not even Linus, remember when he had to put the smackdown of a couple of nare-do-wells who were going to auction off a bunch oh *linux*.* domain names for nefarious ends?

    IANAL, but AFAIK, the ONLY IP that you do NOT have to aggesively defend in order to keep the rights, is a patent, which a) is a fscked up system to begin with, and b) expires much sooner than other IP anyway.

    john
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 09, 2000 @04:52AM (#1215905)
    There is way too much confusion on /. about how the intellectual property regime works. Let me clarify for all you knee-jerks the differences between copyright/patent/trademark/trade secrets: Copyright protects authors automatically (no registration required) for original works in a fixed medium (e.g. a play, a novel, source code.) Patent gives an individual (or company) a short monopoly (17 years?) during which no one can copy your patented invention unless they have your permission. The logic of patents is to encourage innovators to share their ideas with the public in exchange for temporary protection from free riders. Remember, after the patent expires, we can all use the invention freely. Trade secrets are protected by state law and include any proprietary information of commercial value that is learned during the course of employment or some other special relationship. Trademark protects the "goodwill" of a name or design. If Joe Average thinks of your company when he sees the word "Grblatz," you have trademark rights in "Grblatz." Similarly, if Joe Average thinks of Apple when he sees rounded aqua and semi-opaque plastic computers with built-in monitors and small keyboards, Apple has a trademark on the iMac design. When Apple sued Daewoo and eMachines, it was because Apple felt that those two companies were building machines that looked like the iMac in order to confuse consumers into buying the eOne or eMachine ON THE BASIS OF APPLE'S IMAC MARKETING EFFORTS. There was no design patent issue here. I am beginning to see that many people on slashdot are lashing out at the patent system based on the perceived abuses of Amazon, etc. I submit that the real problem with patent is not the system in general, but the legnth of the monopoly rights granted to a patent holder. Two decades might have been appropriate for light bulbs and typewriters, but software evolves too quickly and by the time software patents expire, the software is long since useless. The war cry for patent reform should be "1 year monopoly rights for software!" Catchy, isn't it?
  • by Masem (1171) on Thursday March 09, 2000 @03:18AM (#1215906)
    A lot of people are attacking apple because they feel that Apple didn't design the all-in-one computer case. Certainly, that's not the point here. Apple is trying to defend the fact that they have spent time and money to develop an unique design to computer systems, and the pc clones were obvious copies of that. No machine before the iMac had any design similar to it, so it needs to protect something that it did create. I would suspect that a suit like this will allow other computer makers with unique designs to follow up to it (for example, that Compaq business machine model that's really thin, etc). Of course, there's lots of prior outside of the iMac look for most other computer cases, so it has to be a revolutionary design.

    However, with that said, this could set a dangerous precident going back to the GUI look and feel. Sure, it's too late for Microsoft or Apple or Xerox to stop GUI operating systems with the typical functionality, but let's take the Aqua theme that Apple developed for it's OS. A while back, Apple asked various theme sites to remove the Aqua clones, but based on the specific targets of the removal, these themes used the Apple or MacOS logo in the theme, which could be considered a trademark violation; Apple apparently didn't have problems with people copying the theme, just the trademarks logos.

    Now sure, this case was a out-of-court settlement, no precident has been set, but this could get Apple or Microsoft or some other OS design a bit braver and take more drastic action against copy-cat clones of the OS system beyond just the standard C sure, we still have the result of the Apple/MS Look-and-Feel lawsuit that set a precident, but those can be overturned as times change.

    Even beyond just the OS, what about application software? Can Netscape sue MS over look-and-feel of IE compared to NS? Can WinZip sue the countless zip clones? What about a unique feature of an application program that is then extended by others to be a common control in later application programs?

    I think the key thing comes down to with something like this is that is there a difference between the design of a physical object and the design of a virtual object. As said in one of the DCMA article discussions yesterday, if someone takes a physical object, a new physical object has to be created to replace it, while one can easily take a copy of a virtual object, and still leave that virtual object for others. Because physical objects move much slower than virtual ones, is it more important to protect the designs of physical objects over virtual ones? I believe so, but there needs to be some precident to distinquish the two cases. We only have a few such precidents in place, and unless a law is passed soon regarding this, the solution will be decided by frivolous lawsuits.

  • by Millennium (2451) on Thursday March 09, 2000 @03:21AM (#1215907) Homepage
    Coca-Cola was the first company to ever do something like this. They patented the famous "Coke bottle". That was years ago, though, and I don't seem to remember hearing about any complaints.

    Do I think this one's right? I'm not sure. This isn't "look and feel." It's also not a software thing. And it's certainly a blatant violation of something, anyway. It should probably be more of a trademark violation than a patent violation, though.

    The intent for eMachines and FuturePower to rip off Apple's design and profit from it was quite clear; even more blatant than Windows. For that alone they deserve a smackdown; this was nothing more than outright plagiarism. It's also about more than translucent plastic, which many Slashdotters seem to be forgetting.

    But as I said, is it right? I don't know this time. I think it just might be.
  • by Greg Titus (11738) on Thursday March 09, 2000 @06:12AM (#1215908) Homepage
    <rant>
    Can we please be more careful about what words are thrown around here? There is a vast difference between trademarks, copyrights and patents. The slashdot item title says "copyright", which is totally wrong. The description and a bunch of the posts here say "patent", which is also totally wrong. Everyone here is aware that these are different things, aren't they?
    </rant>

    This is a trademark dispute. You trademark a logo, a name, a distinctive look (like coke bottles, or UPS puke brown), et cetera. These are things that the general public notices to recognize your product. The purpose of trademark law is to keep you from purchasing some other product by mistake from a disreputable company that disguises its product as the one you actually want.

    You're in a hurry, so you rush into the grocery store, grab a case of those distinctively shaped Coca-cola bottles, pay, and leave, and only when you get back to your car do you notice that you've actually bought some of my Greg's Sparkly Brown Water. (Costs the same, tastes like crap!) Without trademark law, there's nothing that Coca-cola can do about it, and I can profit off of unobservant consumers that are foolish enough to make this mistake. (Muahahahaha.)

    Obviously there is a big gray area around the question: how similar do products have to be before ignorant consumers start to mistake one for the other? Beige boxes are so common that no one would think they're looking at a particular brand just because the box is square and beige. The judge who granted the preliminary injunction in this case, though, decided that Apple had done enough marketing, and the iMac look was distinctive enough, that consumers could be confused by the look of the eMachines and Daewoo boxes into thinking that they were iMacs and buy them by mistake.

    This case was only about one product trying to impersonate another to take advantage of ignorant consumers, it has nothing at all to do with copyright or patent law, and nothing keeps anyone from building another all-in-one computer, or building a blue transparent computer - but trying to cash in on someone else's distinctive look is, IMHO, clearly wrong.

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