Power cord patent threatened by 'fryer art'

When Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the MacBook Pro laptop this week, he took a few minutes to highlight a nifty little feature called the MagSafe Connector.

As Jobs explained, MagSafe is a "new power adaptor...that's magnetically held in and when the cord gets yanked it just pulls right off. It works beautifully."

And he's right--that's why it's been a standard feature in many kitchen appliances for several years.

According to this CNN article from 2001, the breakaway cord is a standard that was developed by Underwriters Laboratories and is used on countertop deep fryers, fondue sets and similar kitchen gadgets. It was designed to reduce burns caused when a child pulls on the cord.

This is not to take away from Apple's thoughtfulness in applying the concept to laptop power cords. However, Jobs noted that the MagSafe is "patent pending," and to get a patent you generally have to be first to the market. The patent office looks for earlier, similar inventions, known as "prior art." Or in this case, fryer art.

Tech Culture
About the author

CNET former Editor in Chief Scott Ard has been a journalist for more than 20 years and an early tech adopter for even longer. Those two passions led him to editing one of the first tech sections for a daily newspaper in the mid 1990s, and to joining CNET part-time in 1996 and full-time a few years later.


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