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Apple Granted Broad Patent On Wedge-Shaped Laptops

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  • Awesome... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 08, 2012 @01:42PM (#40259995)

    ...yet another thing granted to the rapacious by the incompetent.

    • Re:Awesome... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by KingBenny (1301797) on Friday June 08, 2012 @01:43PM (#40260007) Homepage
      i kinda like the icon for the topic here, who cares about patents .. the chinese dont, the russians dont, the indians dont, and if africa ever gets on its feet i'm sure they wont
      • Re:Awesome... (Score:5, Informative)

        by peragrin (659227) on Friday June 08, 2012 @01:54PM (#40260167)

        Patents and copyrights are used only to protect past acompilishments not create new ones. Stronger IP protections are only used to slow down growth. It is all but ignored by growing economies.

        • Re:Awesome... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by cpu6502 (1960974) on Friday June 08, 2012 @02:06PM (#40260309)

          (1) What "icon" is KingBenny talking about? I don't see any.

          (2) Excellent point. The Constitution provides for "limited exclusive rights" for inventors/authors to promote production, but history is now showing that it has the opposite effect of stagnating creativity (and locking-up control in a few megacorps) for 20 or 100+ years. Thomas Jefferson was right to propose amending the constitution to insert a time limit on copyrights/patents.

          "Article 9. Monopolies may be allowed to persons for their own productions in literature, and their own inventions in the arts, for a term not exceeding -- years, but for no longer term, and no other purpose."

        • by sjbe (173966) on Friday June 08, 2012 @02:12PM (#40260385)

          Patents and copyrights are used only to protect past acompilishments not create new ones.

          The entire purpose of patents and copyrights is to create incentives for new works. Patents and copyright attempt to address the free rider problem [wikipedia.org]. Without some reasonable assurance of protection, a lot of beneficial works would never be created.

          None of this is to say the laws for patents and copyrights aren't badly in need of updating. They very much are broken in their current form. But the idea of protecting inventive works against the free rider problem is demonstrably beneficial.

          Stronger IP protections are only used to slow down growth. It is all but ignored by growing economies.

          This is where your argument falls apart. Without relatively strong IP protections, there are fewer incentives to create new work because there are so many copycats. Those same growing economies grow largely by imitating established economies with established IP protections. They tend to create very few (not zero but few) new and innovative works. You can only grow to a limited extent by copying other people. Eventually you have to create your own works and sooner or later that requires some form of IP protection. The exact model can vary but for better or worse there is presently no better solution to the free rider problem out there.

          • by spire3661 (1038968) on Friday June 08, 2012 @02:22PM (#40260527) Journal
            LOL. The entire problem of your argument is that it rests upon the idea that art needs financing. We dont need to enslave the minds of humanity in order to stimulate creative works. Sure we might not get Magnum Opus's anymore, but i think thats a small price to pay for unfettered information exchange across the globe.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              Let me see you come up with the scratch needed to develop a new drug. Patents are needed to encourage private investments in new technology.

              • by Dishevel (1105119) on Friday June 08, 2012 @02:52PM (#40260901)

                Limited time patents and copyright on actual innovation or copyrightable works.
                This crap that Micky Mickey mouse is still under copyright after 84 years is bullshit.
                Patents on the wedge shape are bullshit. Copyrighting of range check code is bullshit.
                90%+ of patents now are bullshit. The ones that are not live on in perpetuity. The solution is not to get rid of patent or copyright.
                The solution lies in bringing back the limits.
                And killing the lawyers of course.

                • by geekoid (135745)

                  "This crap that Micky Mickey mouse is still under copyright after 84 years is bullshit."
                  You might want to notice he has changed over the years, and ther eis a reason fore that.

                  Yes, Copyright is too long. 14 years is fine, even 20.

                  This is a design patent for a specific things. It's for laptops, with a wedge, that are brushed nickle, have their feet is a specific space, etc. They did not get a utlity patent on the wedge. It prevents confusion. Seeing how many companies are trying to copy the specific design,

                  • by Dishevel (1105119) on Friday June 08, 2012 @05:19PM (#40262675)

                    "This crap that Micky Mickey mouse is still under copyright after 84 years is bullshit."
                    You might want to notice he has changed over the years, and ther eis a reason fore that.

                    Yes, Copyright is too long. 14 years is fine, even 20.

                    20 is too long.

                    This is a design patent for a specific things. It's for laptops, with a wedge, that are brushed nickle, have their feet is a specific space, etc. They did not get a utlity patent on the wedge. It prevents confusion. Seeing how many companies are trying to copy the specific design, it prevent market confusion.

                    " Copyrighting of range check code is bullshit."
                    format.

                    Oracle vs Google.

                    "90%+ of patents now are bullshit. "
                    That's a lie.

                    That would be your opinion.

                    Yes, kill the lawyers, that way no one can defend you from anything. Twit.

                    Getting rid of lawyers would help alot.
                    No law should ever be written that you need a lawyer to defend you for.
                    Justice should not come at a cost. Laws are either simple or unjust.

              • by fnj (64210) on Friday June 08, 2012 @02:56PM (#40260955)

                Unless - gasp - social funds, not private investments, are used to develop new drugs. That way we don't have to worry about making a few pigs filthy rich as a side effect of the process.

                Gee, sounds like exactly what governments ought to be doing, to me.

                • by amoeba1911 (978485) on Friday June 08, 2012 @03:18PM (#40261205) Homepage

                  NONSENSE! Shut your face! With nothing but stupid "social funds" we would cure nothing but the dumbest stupidest things like malaria which only kills a few million people a year. How the hell would we ever have enough "social funds" to cure the important things like flaccid penises and hair loss that affects millions of very rich people? HOW? You ever stop to think before you open your stupid ape mouth?

                  Sheesh, the nerve on some people!

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Anonymous Coward

                Let me see you come up with the scratch needed to develop a new drug. Patents are needed to encourage private investments in new technology

                A lot of the money is going towards marketing. A lot of the expense is for drugs that are designed to do nothing more than replace alternatives that have gone off-patent. A lot of times, the new drug carries side effects and/or is less effective than the cheap generic.

                Take all of that out, and new drugs would still be developed. Instead of being developed by a compa

            • by TarMil (1623915)

              We're talking about technology, why are you talking about art?

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Interesting notion. You know, when I decide to create something, the only time patents cross my mind is something like "does somebody have a patent on something that they can twist to try to cover my creation and cause me harm?". In other words, the current environment does stifle innovation, even in cases like mine where most of my stuff would be obvious to a person skilled in my profession faced with a similar problem--and therefore should not be patentable in the first place. Well, unless one is a larg

          • by Bert64 (520050) <bertNO@SPAMslashdot.firenzee.com> on Friday June 08, 2012 @02:54PM (#40260931) Homepage

            Most progress is not made by totally new and innovative products, but by "standing on the shoulders of giants"... That is, a product which is mostly a copy of a previous one, but with a few improvements here and there.

            Developing something new from scratch is time consuming and costly, especially when you have to work around huge numbers of patents... Also if a product is too different to existing ones, users will often reject it because it's too unfamiliar.

            Plenty of beneficial works were made before the days of patents or copyrights, and there's no reason to believe they wouldn't do so again were these schemes abolished. People create works for all kinds of reasons, not everyone is purely motivated by profit and greed...

            On balance, the current patent/copyright laws do far more to stifle innovation than to promote it.. You have products which are crippled to avoid patents, people afraid to release (or even start developing) products for fear of being sued, works still in copyright when the original author is long dead (many of which will be totally forgotten and/or lost by the time copyright expires) etc etc...

            Both copyright and patents were meant to be a compromise between the ability for creators of such works to profit, and the benefit of society as a whole... The current systems however are so distorted and corrupt that they are generally entirely detrimental to society and often to the creators of the works too.

            For-profit also causes innovations to be stifled, why release a new (expensive, requiring retooling etc) product, when you can continue selling your existing one?

          • Wrong, try again (Score:4, Informative)

            by gr8_phk (621180) on Friday June 08, 2012 @02:59PM (#40260995)

            The entire purpose of patents and copyrights is to create incentives for new works.

            Patents were intended to get inventors to publish "how to" information to further society. The limited term of exclusivity is a form of compensation for revealing what might otherwise be kept a trade secret. OTOH if you use that definition, anything that is obvious in hind-sight should not be patentable since introduction of a product would be disclosure of the idea - at least ideas like the shape of a laptop.

          • by greg1104 (461138) <gsmith@gregsmith.com> on Friday June 08, 2012 @03:57PM (#40261657) Homepage

            If your post was a patent application, I'd reject it over several unsupported claims. Patents were not intended to fix the "free rider" problem. Anything innovating enough to deserve a patent could be kept a trade secret instead. Things that can be easily copied are by definition more derivative than innovating. This wedge based design for example; it's an obvious advance made possible by continued reduction in component size. Once it's becomes possible to shrink things to that form factor, it was inevitable. Cue "shoulders of giants" comments and how many instances of co-discovery litter scientific history.

            What patents were intended to do was let an inventor make a deal with the world. They could get monopoly rights on their invention in return for sharing it with everyone. Other companies wouldn't have to reverse engineer the process, they could just license it for a fee instead. The production capabilities of the world move forward; other companies don't have to waste time re-inventing the same wheel.

            If it's possible to re-invent the wheel in question without seeing the so-called "intellectual property", it wasn't a non-obvious advance. That's where the bar is supposed to be at here, with an explicit obviousness test. That test has been weakened into a ridiculously low one now. And the result is a patent process that does nothing but weaken business. There is no value being provided by patent holders anymore, no resulting benefit to society sufficient that they should be rewarded with a monopoly on something. The social contract implied by the patent process is no longer being honored by the companies patenting things, and instead they're just stifling innovation, by small companies in particular.

          • by ultranova (717540)

            But the idea of protecting inventive works against the free rider problem is demonstrably beneficial.

            So why didn't you demonstrate it then, rather than just assert it? Also, I notice that you didn't specify who it is allegedly beneficial to.

          • by jmerlin (1010641)
            I have a suggestion as to how to fix patents and copyrights. It's really simple, IMO.

            Patents:
            Infringement can now only occur if a person or company is directly competing in the same realm as the patent owner for the same product. This is intended to do what patents were meant to do originally: prevent competitors from reproducing your patented work and selling it more cheaply because they don't have the same underlying R&D cost. It would not, however, give you the ability to sue any company produ
        • Re:Awesome... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by djchristensen (472087) on Friday June 08, 2012 @03:28PM (#40261327)

          Without some sane form of protection (current system != sane), you run the risk of the copycats making most of the money, leaving true innovators struggling to fund future innovations. Say you owned a company and spent several years developing the best widget since sliced bread, then some Chinese company immediately cloned it and sold it for half what you could sell it for, would you still be railing against IP protections? I think not.

          That doesn't mean you should be allowed to get a patent on some painfully obvious idea, but that's an issue with implementation, not with the actual concept of IP protections.

      • i kinda like the icon for the topic here, who cares about patents .. the chinese dont, the russians dont, the indians dont, and if africa ever gets on its feet i'm sure they wont

        And I don't.

    • by kwark (512736)

      Toshiba AC-100 Android netbook:
      http://uk.computers.toshiba-europe.com/innovation/jsp/SUPPORTSECTION/discontinuedProductPage.do?service=UK&PRODUCT_ID=1091301 [toshiba-europe.com]

      Physical dimensions W x D x H : 262.0 x 189.8 x 14.0 (front) / 21.0 (rear) mm
      weight : starting at 0.87 kg

      Release date: aug 2010

      • Lenovo Thinkpad X60 [notebookreview.com], 2006.
        Not as flat, but already the form of a wedge.
        • they clearly stole the design from Apple!
        • It also looks nothing like the design in their patent. They're more concerned about the thickness and the lack of any real visible hinge as well as the wedge shape. Which is why they were happy to mention the Sony Viao which came out previous with somewhat similar wedge-like design but also had a big monitor hinge.
    • Really, it's prior art and obvious. Apple must be incapable of competing. Just wait until Samsung finishes with them as they actually have a lot of hardware patents. All Apple has is this look and feel stuff.

      • Re:Awesome... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Friday June 08, 2012 @02:02PM (#40260263)

        'Prior art and obvious' do not appear to be reasons to not file for a patent, from what I've seen. In fact, they might be reasons to apply: If people have done it, and it's obvious, surely someone will get a patent on it soon, and you don't want to have to pay patent licensing fees. (Or worse.)

        • Agreed, but all Apple will do is slow the introduction of competitors products. When these hardware companies that have many hardware patents instead of just stuff related to look and feel fight back like Samsung and probably every other Android manufacturer eventually, it's not going to be good for Apple down the road, but hey they flipped the switch and started patent wars along with Oracle which might just have really messed things up, I just don't see how this can be good for anyone including Apple.

  • The shape of a wedge has been around for thousands of years, maybe the egyptians or Greeks invented it.

    • by dhovis (303725) on Friday June 08, 2012 @01:51PM (#40260125)
      This comes up occasionally and this is not a traditional patent, but a design patent. You can still build a wedge-shaped laptop, you just can't have it look exactly like a MacBook Air. There are lots of ways of designing around it. You could make it almost the same, but with a different finish, for example.
      • Functional parts (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Friday June 08, 2012 @02:05PM (#40260297)
        Indeed, as soon as it is shown that the wedge shape is functional (provides a small tilt for the keyboard, makes it easier to carry) that part of a design patent is invalidated. The reason so many details are needed in the application, I suspect, is to prevent a Chinese company from producing an exact knockoff by acquiring the dies and CAD files as soon as this version ceases manufacturing. Nothing to see here etc.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Yea, let's just ignore that Apple sued Samsung for using ROUND FUCKING CORNERS on phones in Germany. But Apple would never use such a thing in an anti-competitive manner. Trust me, I'm a doctor!

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Nixoloco (675549)
            Stop spreading FUD. They didn't sue because it had round corners, there was a long list of things that were copied right down to the power adapters and packaging. Samsung has a long history of copying other manufacturers devices (see their old "blackjack" phone as an example).
        • The reason so many details are needed in the application, I suspect, is to prevent a Chinese company from producing an exact knockoff

          Explain how a US patent for anything prevents a Chinese company from doing anything. The Chinese have no problem producing knockoffs to compete against foreign products in Chinese markets.

  • by CajunArson (465943) on Friday June 08, 2012 @01:48PM (#40260081) Journal

    This is not a "broad" patent on any wedge shaped laptop but instead a relatively narrow patent on portions of the ornamental design of the Macbook air. Looking at the priority date, you'll see that the earliest filing date is 2010, which means that even the original Macbook Air models are prior art for this case.

    Look at the listing of prior art and you'll see PLENTY of wedge-shaped notebooks that are already out there... because this patent is *not* covering all wedge-shaped notebooks, despite the intentionally hyped-up-so-we'll-make-ad-revnue summary & headline. (P.S. I run adblock to help do my part to have Slashdot lose money for posting this drivel).

    • That and according to this Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org]: "Design patents cover the ornamental nonfunctional design of an item. Design patents can be invalidated if the design has practical utility (e.g. the shape of a gear)." So let's figure out how to show "practical utility" for a wedge shape.
      • by Ed Bugg (2024) on Friday June 08, 2012 @01:59PM (#40260233)

        That and according to this Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org]: "Design patents cover the ornamental nonfunctional design of an item. Design patents can be invalidated if the design has practical utility (e.g. the shape of a gear)." So let's figure out how to show "practical utility" for a wedge shape.

        It's a Mac... It's only functional use is as a door stop. The wedge shape has been standard for door stops for eons!!!!

      • by C_Kode (102755)

        That and according to this Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org]: "Design patents cover the ornamental nonfunctional design of an item. Design patents can be invalidated if the design has practical utility (e.g. the shape of a gear)." So let's figure out how to show "practical utility" for a wedge shape.

        The shape cuts down on size and weight. That should be utility enough.

      • by Jeng (926980)

        So let's figure out how to show "practical utility" for a wedge shape.

        It is a wedge shape because the hinge cannot be made as thin as the rest of the unit.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      >>>I run adblock to help do my part to have Slashdot lose money for posting this drivel).

      -or- You could just check the little box that says, "Disable advertising" like I did.

      • I used to have that box. It seems to have been taken away from me. Not sure why.

      • I was going to reply the same, but then I figure he was referring to the linked website. I used to use adblock to remove annoying blot out the screen flash adverts, some where along the way I stopped bothering since I think it contributed to the odd glitch on some websites (to each their own). It seems to me that those intrusive ones are not as common as they were anyway obviuos skip buttons etc, and I don't notice the others any more. Either way I never clicked on an advert unless perhaps by accident, so I
  • Look-and-feel (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cpu6502 (1960974)

    I thought it was determined in Apple v. Microsoft (windows) that you cannot patent or copyright the "look and feel" of software or hardware?

    • Re:Look-and-feel (Score:5, Informative)

      by 91degrees (207121) on Friday June 08, 2012 @01:54PM (#40260165) Journal
      It's a design patent. It's closer to trademark protection than patent protection in how its used. It protects the look of an item. A particularly famous example is the design of the Coke bottle.

      You can't get a design patent for basic functional details. The fact that it's made of two parts, that the front is thinner than the back, and it's hinged are purely functional. The specifics - the curves and contours that only serve an aesthetic purpose - can be protected.
  • Shenanigans!! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by killfixx (148785) *

    Pretty soon all useful physical designs will be patented and there will be no room to innovate without fear of A. Being sued into oblivion or B. Paying a significant portion of start-up costs to patent holders.

    Way to keep the money at the top USPTO.

  • A wedge shape for a laptop is just an idea. How can this be patented? Ideas are not supposed to be patentable. "If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea." - Thomas Jefferson
    • Re:WTF (Score:4, Informative)

      by AC-x (735297) on Friday June 08, 2012 @03:40PM (#40261459)

      A wedge shape for a laptop is just an idea. How can this be patented?

      It can't, the summary is complete bullshit. The patent is a design patent, a very narrow patent on the exact look of the macbook air, not a broad patent on a "wedge shaped laptops".

  • "All these laptops are yours, except Macbook."
  • How is it even possible to patent "look" of a system? Is this not what copyrights and trademarks are for?

  • by dtmos (447842) * on Friday June 08, 2012 @02:03PM (#40260265)

    Don't Panic!

    This is a "design patent," not a "utility patent." "The difference between a design patent and a utility patent [wisegeek.com] is that a design patent protects the ornamental design, configuration, improved decorative appearance, or shape of an invention, [while] a utility patent protects any new invention or functional improvements on existing inventions."

    People get design patents so that they may have legal recourse when someone substantially copies the appearance of their product. Apple got a design patent on its particular ornamental design of wedge-shaped laptops, to keep people from making knockoffs off them, not "a broad patent on wedge-shaped laptops."

    Unsolicited, unprofessional advice: Roll over. Go back to sleep.

    • by rahvin112 (446269)

      Based on Apples previous usage of Design patents for rectangular with round corners I think it's perfectly appropriate to panic.

      They will sue others, even if they look completely different as the Galaxy tab was not even the same size or shape and was sued. I'd expect that there will be a few dozen suits against Intel's new ultrabook standard in short order.

  • by doston (2372830) on Friday June 08, 2012 @02:04PM (#40260281)
    Hardly anybody on here can even discuss this story from anything but a lay perspective. This isn't a technology story, it's a story better discussed on lawyers.com. I hate when people complain about what stories get voted on, but I just don't think many on here are qualified to discuss this intelligently, so in the end, a lot of otherwise smart people end up sounding like twits. You know, like when your mother explains what you do as "computer stuff"...that's how you all sound discussing intellectual property. This patent seems routine and meaningless, but I'm not an intellectual property attorney, I'm an engineer, Jim, so who knows.
  • between a wedge and an inclined plane? I guess Heron of Alexandria not having prior art on that simple machine makes it a more attractive patent target?

  • Seriously? Here is another wedge-shaped laptop [hygra.com] that has been around since at least 1800.

  • My Sony Vaio R600 (R505 in the US I believe) had that same shape about eight years ago. Fantastic laptop, at that.
    • by cmdrbuzz (681767)

      You could read the article and see that the Vaio is even referenced in the patent itself...

  • by Grond (15515) on Friday June 08, 2012 @02:38PM (#40260725) Homepage

    The scope of a patent is defined by its claims as read in light of the specification, but design patents only have one claim, which simply refers to the drawings in the patent specification. The figures in design patents are drawn in a very particular way [uspto.gov]. The most important thing to know is that only the solid lines matter. The dashed lines are only there to provide context and do not represent the claimed design. In this case, most of the laptop is drawn in dashed lines. It's a little hard to tell because of the relatively low-quality PDF, but it looks like only the lid is drawn in solid lines. Compare that to the parent design patent, D642172 [google.com], which covers more of the case, the keyboard, etc.

    • by synapse7 (1075571)
      Wow, looking over filings from that google link, applied for a paten on nearly every aspect of the macbook air(laptop). I understand you wouldn't want somebody to make a "copy" but isn't there going to be overlap with the basic design of a laptop.
  • Oh Baby Jesus Wept.

    Design patents are NOT broad.

    They cover ONLY the details of the particular ornamental design.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design_patent#Protections [wikipedia.org]

  • The Motorola Razr -- both the original flip phone and the current smart phones -- have a design that is thicker where it needs to be and thin elsewhere to conserve weight and volume. Not really a wedge but similar. Perhaps non-Apple ultrabook makers could adopt that thin-with-a-bump design. It's easier to grip, too.

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