Remember back when the big Apple vs. Samsung case was going on, and everyone was joking about how Apple thought they invented the concept of a rounded rectangle? That was the crux of a lot of their “trade dress” arguments during the case, as they claimed that Samsung’s tablets had the same rounded rectangle shape as theirs, which constituted trade dress infringement.
Apple having a patent on the rounded rectangle is no longer just a punchline for clever tech blog commenters, though. They’ve just been granted a patent that appears to literally grant them exclusive rights to making rounded rectangle shaped tablets. Yes, it’s every bit as goofy as it sounds.
As Ars Technica reports, the patent in question is one US Patent D670,286, which covers the shape of the original iPad. Apple already has all manner of design patents on the iPad’s layout and form factor, but this one seems to cover literally nothing except the shape of the perimeter of the device, which happens to be the same rounded rectangle used by just about every tablet in the world.
None of the other identifying features of the iPad, such as it’s speaker placement, bezel size, home button location, etc are included in this patent, so this is purely a patent on the iPad’s perimeter shape. Somehow, someone at the United States Patent and Trademark Office thought this was a not-unreasonably-broad patent that should be approved, and now it has been.
Of course, a patent like this can be overturned in a court case in the future, if Apple decides to use this patent in litigation, but for now, it looks like Apple has carte blanche to sue people (or attempt to charging licensing fees) over the overall shape of their tablets.