Apple granted MacBook Air design patent; problems ahead for Ultrabook makers?

Apple has patented the design of the MacBook Air. Consider how much difference there is between Apple's portable and any other Ultrabook? The answer is very little.

Apple has been granted what appears to be a very broad design patent (gallery) covering the distinctive look of the MacBook Air.

Design patent D661,296 was issued on Tuesday. It covers not the minutia of the design -- such as hinges, ports, feet and so on -- but the overall wedge and teardrop shape of the portable.

When looking at the images in the patents, bear in mind that it is the solid lines define the boundaries of the claimed shape or design, while the dashed lines can be any shape or design and still infringe on the patent.

Consider how much difference there is between the MacBook Air and say, HP's Envy Spectre, or the ASUS Zenbook? The answer is very little. In fact, remove the logos and the average person in the street might not be able to tell the different.

They're all made of metal, and all have the same basic wedge, teardrop-like shape. That, it would appear, is all that is needed to infringe on this design patent.

To be honest with you, I'm having a hard time thinking of a Ultrabook or any other thin-and-light system that would appear to not violate this patent.

Given how enthusiastically Apple has wielded its iPhone and iPad design patents against smartphone and tablet makers, it seems a safe bet that the Cupertino giant will behave in exactly the same with this latest patent.

I would say that Ultrabook makers, and those who build thin-and-light portable makers should prepare for an onset of litigation.

Apple granted patent on MacBook Air (Gallery)

Image Gallery: Apple granted patent on MacBook Air
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Image sources: USPTO, HP, ASUS.