The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently awarded Apple with 18 fresh patents according to documents released by the government agency this week. Among the 18 new patents, one specifically addresses the design of the iPhone 4.
In the newly granted patent, filed by Apple in September, 2010, the Cupertino company details its flagship mobile device in words and illustrations. The patent covers "the ornamental design for an electronic device with graphical user interface" and depicts the distinctive, minimalist industrial design of the iPhone 4, including the infamous stainless steel antenna that loops around its outer edge. The USPTO also furnished Apple with a similar design patent for the iPod touch released in 2007, patents for iTunes and Apple TV, and a technical patent for a touch display with integrated RFID components.
Apple is likely to exercise its new iPhone design patent quickly as it prepares for a legal smackdown with Samsung. Apple filed a lawsuit against the Korean electronics manufacturer last week for allegedly shipping phones and tablets that too closely resemble the iPhone and iPad. Apple may use its newly awarded design patent as evidence to support its case. "Design patents can be a very powerful litigation tool," Matthew Macari, an intellectual property attorney, told Patently Apple. "The 'wiggle room' of interpretation is much greater than many think and [patents] can provide a powerful enforcement tool for a plaintiff in an infringement case."
Patent D636,392 lists Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Jonathan Ive, Jody Akana, Bartley Andre, Freddy Anzures, Jeremy Bataillou, Imran Chaudhri, Daniel Coster, Daniele De Iuliis, Evans Hankey, Richard Howarth, Duncan Robert Kerr, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Peter Russell-Clarke, Christopher Stringer, Eugene Antony Whang, and Rico Zorkendorfer as inventors of the iPhone 4 design. The credits conspicuously omit the former executive in charge of iPhone development, Mark Papermaster, who left the company after a falling out with Mr. Jobs.