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Apple's iPad Design Patent: Been There, Done That (Images)

Come on! Is there really anything about the iPad's design that makes it so special that it should be used ban Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 sales? I Don't Think So.
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1 of 14 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

iPhone and iPad

Apple wants to keep the Samsung Galaxy Tab--and any other tablet--off the market. Their reasoning? The Galaxy Tab looks too much like the iPad.

Excuse me? The iPad just looks like a freaking tablet to me.

Come on Apple, aren't you a little big to be throwing fits like this? Just because, Android now has 20% of the market, do you really have to try to keep potential competitors out of the marketplace by suing them? I think not.

Besides, let's get real, a tablet is a tablet, and I'll now show, there's nothing new about your tablet format—especially if you consider how often the idea's been kicked around in toys and fiction.

Apple iPhone and iPad: First, let's consider the first iPad, and it's little, but older brother, the iPhone. Yep. Sure enough, it's a tablet. We've all seen it.

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2 of 14 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

iPad design

Next, let's take a look at the 'official' Apple iPad design, which is being used in the lawsuit. It looks pretty darn generic right? Surely, oh surely, someone's built something that had a similar design don't you think? Why yes, yes they have.

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3 of 14 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

Roman wax tablet

Roman Wax Tablet: In fact, those darn Romans back before the common era were already using tablets! Look, you can even see that they already had a frame around the display!

4 of 14 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

The Etch-a-Sketch had Apple beat to the basic tablet design as well.

Moving a few thousand years ahead, consider if you will, the Etch-a-Sketch: It's state-of-the-art toy technology for 1960. Sure, it has two knobs on the front, but darn, it's clearly a tablet!

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5 of 14 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

Star Trek had tablets in the 60s.

Thanks to the wonders of television, we also knew in 1966 that the future belong to tablets. Here, we see Lt. Uhura of tne Enterprise using what presumably is an iPad 2255—better known to true Star Trek fans as a Personal Access Display Device (PADD).

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6 of 14 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

Another Star Trek tablet from the 60s.

What's that you say? That's a fixed part of the bridge? Nope. Here's another PADD being carried about by some poor slob wearing a red-shirt and we all know what that means!

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7 of 14 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

Star Trek was still using tablets in the 90s.

And, we can see tablets were still being used in the Star Trek universe in the 1990s with Deep Space Nine.

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8 of 14 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

And, 1968's 2001: A Space Odyssey also showed tablets off.

Star Trek isn't the only future with tablets. In Stanley Kubrick/s 1968 movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, we also have tablets

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9 of 14 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

The first real world tablets crude ancestors were around in 1961.

Of course, long before the iPad, real world tablets were already appearing, While you certainly couldn't call it portable, the basic idea of a tablet can be seen in 1961's RAND Tablet, aka Grafacon (for 'Graphic Converter').

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10 of 14 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

1989's GRIDPad was the first commercial tablet.

What's that? These are all just concepts or fiction? What do you think design is? Apple isn't fighting Samsung on patents, they're saying Samsung duplicated their look. Clearly, the tablet look has been around for thousands of years. But, if it's real equipment you want, real hardware we've got. The first tablet that shipped commercially, as far as I can tell, was the GRIDPad in 1989.

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Other tablets, using pen-based computing, soon followed.

The GRIDPad was followed by a slew of other unsuccessful tablets, including—oh the irony—HP's first failed tablet 1992's Compaq Concerto, . It turns out the HP TouchPad had failure in its DNA. Shades of Microsoft Surface, this early hybrid tablet/laptop also had a keyboard. 

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Fully commercial tablet designs first showed up in the early 90s.

By 1991, though, we also had full tablets, like the Fujitsu PoqetPad.

Look at the record From almost the beginning of recorded history to twenty years before the iPad was introduced, the tablet was a common design. There's nothing new about the iPad's basic design. There never was. 

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Vertical market tablets. such as the Fujitsu's Stylistic 3500, were successful by 2001.

By 2001,  designs like Fujitsu's Stylistic 3500 had made tablets a commercial success. While these Windows-powered tablets never saw mass popularity, they were, and still are, used in various vertical markets such as manufacturing and medical services. 

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Before the iPad, or its design patent, Apple was showing up the idea... years after everyone else.

will give Apple some credit for fictional tablets as well though. It sure seems to me that in Pixar's 2004 animated movie The Incredibles that they were already using iPads. The iPhone was still three years in the future. The iPad farther still. The bottom line though is that, as anyone can plainly see, there was nothing new or worthy of protection in the basic design of an iPad. 

The idea that there is something original in the iPad's design that's worthy of intellectual property protection is the real science-fiction. 

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