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Apple Successfully Patents Rectangle With Rounded Corners (No Joke)

Eric McBride
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You’ve read about the patent infringement claims, you’ve heard about the court wins and losses, and you’re probably pretty fed up with hearing the words “Apple” and “patent” used in the same sentence. We’ve always joked about Apple pretty much thinking they own the rights to anything square or rectangular shaped, as any product that has the potential to sell well is always accused by Apple of resembling an iPad. Well ladies and gentlemen, you’re not going to believe this, but the Cupertino company has just been granted a patent that might make take the funny out of those jokes: Apple has successfully patented a rectangle with rounded corners. I wish I could say this was a joke. It's not.

Patent D670,286, which can be fully viewed here, was issued to Apple yesterday, and what it clearly focuses on is the outer edge shape of what could be pretty much be anything. What’s important to note is the solid lines in the photo below, as they are what count. The lines with dashes are simply there for context, and as you can see from the one solid line defined in the photo, it’s the shape itself that is being protected. This may very well be the broadest patent I have ever seen, and how Apple managed to actually secure it from the patent office makes me question the logic of the US patent system even more than I already was before:

Apple normally submits design patents with at least one extra feature highlighted by solid lines, like a home button or the shape of a bezel. This newest patent however, focuses purely on the shapes of the edges, meaning that in a way, Apple now owns the right to any rectangular shaped tablet or phone with rounded edges. 

Mindblown.

The good news is that this patent could most likely end up being torn apart in court in the way of invalidity arguments. It covers such a broad spectrum that lawyers could probably come up with quite a few ways of invalidating it, and I seriously doubt that this patent will be of any real use as a weapon for Apple.

That being said, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Apple try their very best to use it unfairly against others.

What do you guys think about this? Can you believe Apple was granted this patent?

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

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Comments

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  • Joel Fabiani Nov 8, 2012 Link

    Seems that when there's no more innovation, lawsuits is all that left.

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  • Eric McBride Nov 8, 2012 Link

    Unreal right? A patent on a shape???

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  • Niels Christiansen Nov 8, 2012 Link

    Those ancient egyptians better watch out. Those slabs infringe!

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  • Ibraheem Satti Nov 8, 2012 Link

    this is just unreal

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  • Stefan E. Nov 8, 2012 Link

    I better order that Nexus 10 quickly, before it is taken away by Law Wars Episode IV: A Pew Hope

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  • Eric McBride Nov 8, 2012 Link

    LOL! You guys crack me up :)

    But yeah, it's hard to believe things have gotten this bad at the patent office.

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  • anthony griesbaum Nov 8, 2012 Link

    INCONCEIVABLE! ,

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  • Mag J Nov 8, 2012 Link

    OMG .. Thank god Apple didn't get into the TV business

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  • Briley Kenney Nov 8, 2012 Link

    This proves that there is so much innovation and originality at Apple (Complete sarcasm)!

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    DaBartonator Nov 8, 2012 Link

    The worst part is there are not specifications on how thick/thin the rectangle is nor on the rounded corners. Because technically speaking all rectangles have rounded corners once you get down to atomic level!!!

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  • Rutger Nov 8, 2012 Link

    I'm so glad I'm not living in US right now.
    This patent will only be valid in the US right? If not, I hope the EU will act on these crappy patents.

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  • Rick Murray Nov 9, 2012 Link

    Cool !!!!, Looks like they now own all of my Credit Cards, Where do I send them?

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  • nan Nov 9, 2012 Link

    It refers only to a portable display device, not ALL rectangle things with rounded corners :)

    Still you CAN use rectangle with round corners to design a portable display device, you only need to change your design 30% or more. Then it's all legal.

    And patent is valid from November 23, 2010. It means that it doesn't refer to designs made before that date.

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  • Shane M. Nov 9, 2012 Link

    They didn't patent a rectangle, can you please stop posting nonsense on /r/technology.

    Thanks in advance.

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  • Mark R. Nov 9, 2012 Link

    I wonder who owns the patent on wheels...I think I might submit something quick and proclaim it the most innovative invention of our time....

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  • Juan Carlos Walls Nov 14, 2012 Link

    I wonder what will be the shape of my next credit card, since VISA will have to change the design to avoid being accused by Apple for patent infringement.

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  • John Poppitt Nov 14, 2012 Link

    I have a Iphone and I am p_ _ _ _d off by apple's arrogant nature. As soon as my contract is up I am switching back to android type phone. they have gone too far now

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  • Tony Bernier Nov 14, 2012 Link

    is so sad from hot coffee to shape, to bicycle, this how bad is getting here with lawsuits, what happens with competitions the best men win, if you lose you sue so you will win, if not pass some money under the table you then win, Now we could go and run a marathon, if you come in last, a lawsuit, you can disqualify the other you win. every where you look is happening over and over again, what is happening to our contry.

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  • Dunrobin Macdhai Nov 14, 2012 Link

    "And patent is valid from November 23, 2010. It means that it doesn't refer to designs made before that date."

    Silly me, I always thought that you couldn't patent previous art. Maybe someone should explain that to the USPTO.

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  • CJ Brown Nov 14, 2012 Link

    WOW - I guess everything from building supplies (bricks, tiles, etc) to a chalk board eraser is now breaking the patent law due to their shape .... I guess Android Tablet manufacturers can "one up" Apple's design patent by creating a contoured edge on their corners on par with the edge of say a surf board? ....


    C J

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  • Jason Holyoake Nov 14, 2012 Link

    Oh no the companies the make wipe boards will need to pay Apple a license fee for using a design they created 10 years before the Apple even created the iphone/ipad.... Apple 1 - Everyone else in the universe 0

    Apple need to get a grip and come down from that high horse!

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  • Nigel Dexter Nov 14, 2012 Link

    I wonder whether the legality of this can be tested to the extent that the shape is limited to the propotions and that other tabs/phones... could emulate the 'rounded rectangle' so long as their proportions were different from the (cr)Apple design (sic). After all, the patent states "as shown and described" - not either but conditional on both criteria being met. Im not a lawyer as such but its worth a punt. Also I think the curved back may be a limiting factor in restricting the validity of this patent against the likes of Sammy or HTC!

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    Guy Devos Nov 14, 2012 Link

    I think Apple is shooting in its own foot with all this trolling. They are losing huge numbers of fans.

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  • Robert Uomini Nov 14, 2012 Link

    I think everybody is misunderstanding this patent. Note that it has only one claim and that is for a device looking EXACTLY like the one in the drawings. A device that deviates in any way from the patented device is not infringing. Apple apparently applied for this patent in order to have legal recourse against copycats, nothing else.

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  • Gregor Shapiro Nov 14, 2012 Link

    How about the proportions (width to height) is that covered by the patent? and if you turn it sideways? Or hold it at an angle?

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  • Ray Murray Nov 14, 2012 Link

    Never owned an Apple product, and never will. Why support these monkeys? They are a joke. If only the joke was funny.

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  • Jon Kim Nov 14, 2012 Link

    This is the biggest joke I heard and Apple is the company behind it. It really make me look at Apple company at different view. Little monster company trying to monopolize the tablet and phone industry. I will never buy apple again. This is total turn off for their product now. I understand about tech being patent but shape. Patent on a shape that has been around for 5 decade is the integrity of Apple company.
    It is good to have competition that drives better product for the consumer in long run. Now, I will tell everyone I know not to buy apple product anymore. People are not stupid. They will see what type of company Apple is from this action.

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  • Force Meow Nov 14, 2012 Link

    Is this the patent office granting more and more ludicrous patents in a veiled effort at communication to lawmakers to craft reform, or is it just that they are so corrupt that they don't care how ridiculous it gets as the more ridiculous, the higher the bribe $$$ they can demand?

    Is the patent office based in Chicago or something?

    Sounds pretty mobbed up to me

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  • Justin Foster Nov 14, 2012 Link

    I think everyone needs to re examine the actual patent document. I'm no Apple fan at all btw. The design is clearly unique to the IPad with its iconic center button( No other manufactorers even use that) ALONG with the setup of its ports and its dimensions. It is not a patent on individual features like the curved rectangle, the button, the dimensions by themselves, but as a whole. The poster should remove this post and apologize.

    Apple is a neck fledgling from competitive strangulation, but this patent is not trolling.

    Android ftw

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  • Matt Wills Nov 14, 2012 Link

    The patent document clearly says it is for "The ornamental design for a portable display device, as shown and described."

    Any other use of a rectangle with rounded corners is wide open. I don't think we'll have to worry about paying Apple royalties on credit cards or the majority of website button graphics.

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  • Rachel Lacow Nov 14, 2012 Link

    Thank You @JustinFoster and @MattWills!! You guys are the voice of reason!! ... Just because we are all Android fans doesn't mean we can just run with something we don't completely understand!!

    Did you REALLY think they would be able to secure a patent on a rectangle (with rounded edges)? Maybe I should go get a patent on a circle!!

    Some of you should be really embarrassed on what you wrote ... and for the record, I am loyal to Android BUT how come no one ever talks about all the times Apple got screwed over by Microsoft (Bill Gates)?? Apple actually had some really great ideas. ... It's business. Just like everything else.

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  • Matt Wills Nov 14, 2012 Link

    Rachel, I have thought from the beginning of this Apple-Samsung thing that Apple was still smarting over losing that lawsuit against Microsoft years ago over the look and feel of Winduhs. I'm thinking they're patenting anything and everything they can to prevent that from happening again.

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  • Justin Foster Nov 14, 2012 Link

    @RachelLacow It's so tempting to get drawn into the superhate against Apple, so I can see why ppl were so quick to jump on the deriding bandwagon. In fact, I made a few anti-Apple jokes to myself upon reading this article.

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  • Picomat Studios Nov 15, 2012 Link

    My Nokia brick had rounded corners. Has any phone ever had pointy ones ?

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  • Rahul Dev Nov 15, 2012 Link

    if Apple made automobiles all other cars would have triangular steering wheels and every time they turn left or right they'd have to pay a license fee!

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  • victor martines Nov 15, 2012 Link

    please not it's any device that it is both portable AND has a display. nevermind your phone, how many laptops are rectangular with rounded corners ? and how many have USB ports as shown in in the drawing sheets ? smh, if this isn't proof that the big wigs at apple smoke crack, i don't know what is

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  • Gary Demers Nov 15, 2012 Link

    I went through the patent, no dimensions! Just drawings! I think the legal teams are making the killing on this and I am very happy not to own an Apple product. This patent team must be in Colorado smoking weed.

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  • Kenny Schachat Nov 15, 2012 Link

    I suggest taking a couple of minutes to look at the patent document before commenting. It's for a "Portable display device", so your credit cards are safe, LOL.

    However, the document specifically states that it's *only* the solid lines in the drawings that are part of the patent claim. Those lines form a rounded rectangular outline on the edge of the drawing of the iPad like device. All of the other lines are broken and the document states that they are specifically not part of the claim. That includes the home button, shaped back bevels, etc. Of course, those might be part of other patent claims.

    Remember, that in one of the trials, it was argued that it was virtually impossible to tell a Samsung tablet and an iPad apart from 10+ feet away and this patent plays right into that type of thinking. Never mind that any potential buyer would be evaluating the devices from 1-2 ft away: why the Samsung lawyers didn't fall over themselves making that argument has always stumped me :-p. So basically, any portable display device that has the same flat front and outside rounded rectangular shape, would violate the patent.

    The lunatic companies that are applying for these type of patents and those approving them are clear evidence that the lunatics have completely taken over US Patent asylum and common sense has left the building. I think the only thing a sane person can do is laugh!

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  • Paul Pritsis Nov 15, 2012 Link

    I think Apple better watch out here, because I clearly remember seeing episodes of Star Trek Next Gen where Captain Jean Luc Piccard was walking around with his portable display device, which mind you, looks remarkably an Apple patented rectangular device with rounded corners. Who infringed on a design that has been around for 20 years, let alone will exist 300 years from now?

    I think the Federation will definately be sending a fleet of Enterprise Class Starships and be planting a few photon torpedoes up Apple's backside very shortly.

    I'm surprised they haven't tried to sue Captain Kirk either... didn't he have one of the first portable rectangular devices with rounded corners back in the 60's?

    Next Apple will be patenting the wheel, fire and maybe even the air we breathe.

    Beam me up Scotty, there's no intelligent life here, especially at Apple Headquarters.

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  • Lady Di Nov 15, 2012 Link

    I'm trying decide which is more hilarious, the comments about the patent or the patent itself. I'm just glad I own not one Apple product and hopefully never will.

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  • Larry Wilson Nov 15, 2012 Link

    Personally, I think Apple should get the patent for the wheel--but only wheels that are round. What's next? Triangles with rounded corners? I yield.

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  • Jibu Thomas George Nov 15, 2012 Link

    Ha ha ha! People manufacturing Pencil Boxes having been making "Rectangle with Rounded Corners" way earlier than Apple I think! Yup esp in Asian Schools!

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  • Benjamin Carruth Nov 15, 2012 Link

    Read carefully AND zoom in.
    "The broken lines in the figures show portions of the portable display device which form no part of the claimed design."
    The only solid lines in the diagrams correspond to the circumference of the face of the device, which is.... a rounded rectangle. The title *IS* an accurate representation of the nature of the claim, however absurd it may be. Further, look at the submitted documents list: pictures of tablets. Countless pictures of tablets. They *are* arguing general form factor.

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  • Armand Nov 15, 2012 Link

    That's just great!

    Even picture frames are now owned by Apple!

    What the????

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  • Ric Rhodes Nov 15, 2012 Link

    I think I will take it one step further and patent the CIRCLE and then sue Dunlop, Goodyear, car manufacturers,CD and DVD manufacturers, for patent infringement, they will have to produce square wheels,tyres, CD's etc, and then I'll try triangles and squares if you guys haven't beaten me to it lol.

    I think its a joke that a company as big as Apple with supposedly intelligent people running it could come up with the absurd idea of patenting a shape.even if it refers only to a portable display device it leaves the discription wide open, and would include GPS devices, hospital monitors, pagers, portable TV's, Digital photo frames and my watch fits the discription as well,

    If they want to get more ridiculous my drivers licence is a portable display device, I carry it around with me and when the cops want to see it I display it, and if Apple are arguing general form factor that shape has been around for 25 years or more on portable display devices long before Apple introduced the Macintosh Portable in 1989 , they must be scared, really scared lol.

    But having said that I have just found out that on November 11, 2012, (only 4 days ago) Apple and HTC announced a 10-year patent deal to joint license all current and future patents which both companies own.[138] It is predicted that Apple will make $280 million a year from this deal with HTC, a smart business move on HTC's part.

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  • HE3HAYKA Nov 15, 2012 Link

    One important reason not to buy anything Apple (anymore), because they will charge me (inside their devices' price) the money to pay expensive lawyers that will be wasting their time and my money to protect unprotectable patents.
    I want to pay fair money for innovation that creates value in my life - whoever it is Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Nokia... I know to count my money well.

    This patent precedent itself is freaky.

    And thank you Eric for the fresh news; as always.

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  • Barry H. Nov 15, 2012 Link

    So now the Android powered tablet PC I bought six months ago infringes Apple's latest patent? Where does that leave me, I wonder? Am I liable to be sued if I use it? Will Apple compensate me if I am forced to destroy it ? (I doubt that; they'll probably claim it was my fault for not knowing they had a patent application in the works).
    All joking aside, this just goes to show how ludicrous the US patent laws are. Fortunately, the European Union is a lot more sensible in this field - even if they are equally wacky in some others - so the ruling can and will apply only in the USA even if the courts uphold it. I doubt they will, as portable video players exisited with this form factor long before 2010, as, I believe, did TVs. While I'm not a lawyer, this does seem to meet the exception of common use prior to the application.
    I used to think Apple was a company which prided itself on innovation and produced better machines as a result. Now, it seems that they are only interested in becoming another Microsoft style monopoly, only they'll do it by driving creativity and innovation out of the market instead of just 'persuading' everyone that they make a better product.

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  • Jenkinson Nov 15, 2012 Link

    According to the PDF there is only 1 straight line which is solid, so have Apple patented a device which is the thickness of a line or is no_one allowed to us straight lines in display devices? To anyone reading this outside of the US, apply to your country's Patent Office for this patent. You may beat Apple to it and make a fortune by suing them for infringement, or, if it is thrown out then Apple will not be able to get it either.

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  • Josh Nov 15, 2012 Link

    I think this truly show's that Apple has no where left to go but protect their own image.

    As sad as it is, the iPad was the true starting point of the tablet market. But now they're out of ideas, so all they can do is try to foster a market where there are have's (with iPads) and have-nots (with fake iPads).

    Because they can no longer dominate on performance and function, they must make absolutely certain their customers can maintain their smugness level at greater than 10 feet. Because at less than 2 feet, it's much easier to identify the better product.

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  • CJ Brown Nov 15, 2012 Link

    I truly should look @ this Patent D670,286 submission more with better diagrams ... perhaps it could be not only the shape, but the placement of the menu buttons, usp ports, ethernet ports, power cord plug in, camera lens, etc ....


    Now that I think about it, wouldn't Apple have created more revenue for themselves if they -

    A) willingly shared their technology for a fee
    B) accepted any form of copying as a compliment, then copied whatever they wanted to (which they did anyways)
    C) go back to the lab, improve upon via research & development
    D) don't irritate Consumers, impress Consumers


    To be fair, I've already said before that the iPhone5 is thee best Smart Phone Apple has to offer; because its their only 4G lte smart phone with a 4" screen; however it should've been better before being released to for Consumers to purchase (& maybe if Apple cooperated with other Companies like Samsung? They'd deliver a better product) ....


    I also mentioned that as nice as the iPad Mini is, it would've been better for Apple to not release a smaller iPad - but a Phablet! If that iPad Mini was a Phablet with a better processor? It would compete with the Samsung Note II & Apple would enter the next phase of its Consumer Products (Phablets - which I think will eventually replace Smart Phones) ...


    C J

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  • Mike Kozak Nov 15, 2012 Link

    The rounded rectangle shape has been around since the first notebooks.

    The “tablet” has been around since at least Moses, and it had rounded edges . . . I know I was there!

    How about Etch-A-Sketch!

    How can anyone possibly patent a shape?

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  • Kenny Schachat Nov 15, 2012 Link

    This is getting tedious.

    Warning: pre-coffee rant:

    The title of the article is cute, but it's misleading: the patent only applies to PORTABLE DISPLAY DEVICES and there are dozens of linked patents listed in the document, which clarify that it only applies to electronic displays, etc.

    So, all the jokes about the 10 commandments, Etch-A-Sketches, etc., are misplaced re: the actual patent

    BTW,

    - I think the actual real patent is supremely *idiotic*.

    - I can't believe that the Patent Office grants patents like. I'd love to hear them explain their thinking.

    - Apple management are distracting themselves and the company with issues that don't contribute to their long term success, IMO.

    - The patent will be voided as soon as it's challenged.

    Ah, that feels much better. Coffee's ready now ;-)

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  • Joe Ashlar Nov 17, 2012 Link

    Hello everyone! Thank you for this awesome article. Just wanted to chime in that I made a youtube response video to this topic, as I found this quite ridiculous! Would love everyone to check it out and comment!

    Ashlar's Mind- Apple's New Patent Taken from Star Trek!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3lZBslAfEM

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  • David Treasurer Nov 17, 2012 Link

    Does this mean that Apple have the patent on snooker and pool tables? After all, they are rectangular with round corners. The tops of my cooker and washing machine are square with round corners, could they offend Apple also?

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  • Stuart Halliday Nov 19, 2012 Link

    We all know the US Patent office is a mess and the US Government can't be bothered trying to fix it.

    As it's only the USA in any case, why bother 95% of the rest of the world with this non-Android related trivia?

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  • Gareth Whitehouse Dec 10, 2012 Link

    can i just say the US patient office sounds like joke. hopfully this would never happen in the EU but never say never there idiots everywhere. i think i will patient everything that is black or the spaceing between every word. what is up with these people is it because they don't have an original idea between them they have to pull a stunt like this. it is like a cult that has a big bank ballence

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