Apple has just been issued a new patent in which describes and illustrates the design of the MacBook Air. The US patent D661,296 on the shaping and styling of the MacBook Air will apply for 14 years. As it is a design patent the document consists mainly of illustrations of the shapes used in the notebook’s design.
The best verbal description, the notes at the end of the design description bullet points, says; “The gray shading on the electronic device represents a metallic-looking surface. The relatively light gray shade lines on the surface portions indicate contour and not surface decoration. The broken lines are for the purpose of illustrating portions of the electronic device and form no part of the claimed design.”The illustrations show a wedge/teardrop shape for the notebook.
Looking at the patent document it seems that the patent is quite broad and perhaps there are already patent infringers out there, especially within the Ultrabook making companies. The ASUS Zenbook looks quite shiny and wedgy as does the HP Envy Spectre, among others. When a laptop maker is trying to keep the thickness down it seems natural to wedge the shape to minimise the thickness of one side which can be highlighted to show off the device and to wow consumers.
The new patent may enable Apple to put a spanner into the works for some Ultrabooks being sold and those destined to be sold in the US. Apple is not a stranger to the courtroom. Ultrabook makers may indeed be swayed away from any teardrop/wedge shaped designs from now on. Competitor laptop makers can knowingly tweak shapes and proportions of their designs to avoid this patent, now the document is public. The question is – will this patent be enforceable? Certainly the MacBook Air wasn’t the first tapered shape notebook, there were predecessors including the Sony VAIO X505 in 2004. We await the upcoming court wrangling…