Apple MacBook Air Patented; Beware, Ultrabook Makers

Peter Pachal

Apple was just awarded 19 patents, one of which is for the design of the MacBook Air.

In theory, Apple could leverage its patent on the Air to try and block manufacturers of other light, thin laptops from marketing their products in the U.S.

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The patent, No. D654,072, refers to an "ornamental design for an electronic device," and lists Steve Jobs as one of its inventors. While the term "MacBook Air" isn't cited, the drawings of a laptop with tapered design is unmistakable.

Just before the patent was awarded on Valentine's Day, a report on 9to5 Mac alleged that Apple had approached one of its Taiwanese suppliers, Pegatron, about ceasing production of another laptop with an eerily similar design, the Asustek Zenbook.

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Pegatron, which recently began manufacturing iPhones for Apple, will reportedly cease Zenbook production in March, forcing Asus to look elsewhere.

Although the action, if true, occurred prior to the date when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded Apple its patent on the MacBook Air, it shows that Apple won't hesitate to move against any competitor it sees as copying its ideas. The patent could embolden Apple to go after other makers of Ultrabooks, the Windows PC world's answer to the MacBook Air, a project that Intel spearheaded.

SEE ALSO: How Intel Plans to Make Ultrabooks a Lot Cheaper [VIDEO]

There are several Ultrabooks on the market now, with dozens more on the way. If Apple decides to go after Air clones the way it's waged its legal war against Android manufacturers, the consumer PC industry could be in trouble. Many companies -- with Intel in the lead -- have a lot riding on Ultrabooks, and the prospect of fighting Apple in court would make any CEO nervous.

However, there's a simple way around the patent: Just design something different. Ultrabooks like the HP Spectre and Lenovo Yoga look nothing like the MacBook Air and should be in the clear.

However, Dell and Samsung -- Apple's favorite legal target -- might want to start preparing counterarguments.

BONUS: The Best, Worst and Craziest Ultrabooks From CES 2012

Acer Aspire S5

The skinny: Claiming to be the "world's thinnest" Ultrabook, the Acer Aspire S5 measures just 0.68 inches at its thickest point and weighs just 3 pounds. It has a 13.3-inch screen.

Interesting feature: Besides its überthinness, the S5 also boasts next-generation connectivity with a Thunderbolt port, with provides a high-speed connection to peripherals. Acer's Always Connect tech keeps the machine logged into services when it goes to sleep, and you can wake it up via smartphone.

Potential roadblock: The price, which is currently unknown.

Bottom line: The Aspire S5's thickness certainly comes in well under Intel's guidelines. If it can perform the same trick with the price, Acer will have scored a home run.

Click here to view this gallery.

[via Patently Apple]

This story originally published on Mashable here.