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Apple patents ‘geometry’

Cupertino Inc claims design of ‘outline of flat, front-facing, rounded rectangular device’

Apple patents ‘geometry’
Doubts remain around issues of legal enforcement.

Apple Inc has been awarded a patent for a portable display device that is shaped as a rectangle with rounded edges, TechRadar reported today.

The patent, numbered D670,286, includes a number of components, such as speakers, available in the original iPad and was awarded by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on Tuesday.

Apple's application is thought to be a follow-up to the company's legal battle with Samsung earlier this year where the Cupertino-based iPad maker accused its South Korean rival of infringement pertaining to patent D504,889, which was based on an earlier iPad prototype.

At the time, US District judge Lucy Koh imposed a US-sales ban on Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1, seemingly convinced that the product breeched D504,889, but a jury subsequently disagreed, although it did hold that the Tab 10.1 violated other patents. The Tab ban was later lifted.

Samsung's glib remark that it was "unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners" may have induced Apple to stake claim to the geometry, but a question mark now looms over the issue of enforcement of such a broad patent. Apple appears to be confident that the new patent covers that which it argued the ‘889 patent covered: "the outline of a flat, front-facing, rounded rectangular device". Since this argument failed to secure a ban on Samsung's tablet, Apple may face similar problems with future iterations of its competitors' devices.

"This design patent gives Apple no new advantage because no one is out there trying to market an iPad lookalike," Lea Shaver, an associate professor at Indiana University's McKinney School of Law, reportedly told Wired.

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