In the seemingly never ending litigation between Apple and Samsung, I get a lot of questions about the $1.5B award in the only win Apple has had during all these legal battles.

Apple Inc. was granted a design patent for the rounded corners of its iPad tablet device, Patent D670,286 for “The Ornamental Design For A Portable Display Device.” However, from the drawings submitted in connection with the patent application, it is fairly clear that the patent is intended to cover the rounded rectangular shape of the tablet’s face.

Although it may seem strange to patent the corner shape of an electronic device, U.S. patent law provides for granting design patents to any person who has invented any new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. The subject matter of a design patent application may relate to the configuration or shape of an article, to the surface ornamentation applied to an article, or to the combination of configuration and surface ornamentation.

Unlike traditional patents, design patents only protect the appearance (ornamentality) of the article and not structural or utilitarian features.  In this case, Apple was granted protection for the rounded corners of the iPad which have no effect on how the device functions.

Although the design patent is yet another weapon in Apple’s fight against rival tablets, it is important to highlight that the patent only protects Apple from those who may try to mimic the look of the iPad and not its functionality.

How Can I Help?

As you can see, the way something looks can be as protectable as how it functions.  If you have a design you would like to patent, or you know someone that can use my help, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

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