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The Rounded Lady Has Not Yet Sung

USPTO
To Reexamine Apple
Round Corner Design

The US Patent and Trademark Office is preparing to review design patents held by Apple for the rounded corners of the iPad and iPhone.

U.S. Design Patents No. D618,677 and No. 618,678 cover “the ornamental design of an electronic device.”

Steve Jobs, who is listed as one of 14 inventors for each patent, is credited with making the rounded corners a signature design element of Apple products.

Apple also owns the similar design patent No. D670,286, for “the ornamental design for a portable display device.”

Apple won a mammoth patent infringement battle based on the rounded corner design (and other patented elements of its products) in a Northern California district court last year.

Defendant Samsung was ordered to pay Apple damages of $1 billion, though the amount was later reduced to $600 million. A separate trial to recalculate compensatory damages for 13 of the accused Samsung products is scheduled for November.

In May, Apple lost a Dutch Supreme Court case in which the company sought to have Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet banned from import into the Netherlands based on alleged infringement of Apple’s design elements, including the rounded corners.

The Dutch court found that the iPad design was anticipated by prior art – specifically, the design of the Knight Ridder tablet that was released 15 years before the iPad.

(As we noted previously, Samsung has also argued that the iPad’s design was anticipated by Stanley Kubrick in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.)

In response to the Dutch decision, a Samsung representative commented:

Apple was not the first tablet designed with a rectangular shape and rounded corners. No company should have a monopoly on general design.

According to Foss Patents, it’s “unlikely that anyone other than Samsung” is behind the “anonymous” ex parte re-examination requests.

Other preliminary reexamination decisions concerning other Apple patents have been favorable to Samsung. For example, the USPTO recently issued a semi-final rejection of all but three claims of Apple’s ‘381 “rubber banding” patent and tentatively rejected all claims of its ‘915 “pinch-to-zoom” patent.

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