As unbelievable as it may seem, the design for a rectangular device with rounded corners is now officially in Apple’s portfolio of intellectual property. Patent number D670,286, which the company filed back in 2010, has been issued by the USPTO on November 6, and within it is described “the ornamental design for a portable display device”, as pictured below. In other words, the majority of tablet manufacturers could potentially get sued by Apple for selling products that look too much like an iPad. But is that really going to happen?
Well, not necessarily, even though most of the tablets on the market today are indeed shaped like rectangles with rounded corners. A closer look at the patent – at the images it contains, to be more specific, reveals that Apple is describing the outer edge of a tablet device, as indicated by the solid line it is drawn with. The dashed contours are just there so that the device that is pictured would look like a thing (yes, it is obviously a first-gen iPad). But in its current form, the patent could be ruled not specific enough, meaning that it might not be useful against tablets that look similar to what is being pictured. Moreover, it might be good only against tablets with a screen ratio of 4:3, which won’t be of much use to Apple since the plethora of Android slates sport widescreen displays with aspect ratios of about 16:9 or 16:10.
Long story short, it is fascinating to know that a rounded rectangle can really be patented, even thoughsome thought that wasn’t actually possible. However, that does not guarantee that the patent war between Apple and the rest of the tech world will be fueled by the issuing of the aforementioned patent. Or at least we hope it won’t. Nevertheless, this whole story brings forth an interesting argument – do we need a fundamental change in the way patents are being evaluated by the USPTO? Let us know what you think about that down in the comments!