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Apple MacBook Air wedge patent bad news for ultrabooks?

Apple's nabbed a patent that for the 'wedge' design of the MacBook Air -- a shape seen on rival ultrabooks.

Apple's been awarded a patent that covers the distinctive 'wedge' design seen on its MacBook Air, meaning ultrabook makers could be in the legal firing line.

The Verge explains the new patent, which features drawings of the MacBook Air from every angle imaginable. On those diagrams, a dashed line indicates design nuances, but the Verge claims it's the solid lines that show what exactly the company is trying to protect.

In Apple's drawings, design details like the MacBook Air's rubber feet and sloped underbelly are illustrated with dashes, while the laptop's basic wedge-design is outlined with a solid line. The result is a rather broad patent for a doorstop-shaped machine.

It's no secret that rival ultrabooks from manufacturers such as Asus or HP bear a striking resemblance to Apple's effort -- the Asus Zenbook for instance has the same sloped sides, as does HP's recently unveiled Spectre XT, or LG's Z330.

There are certainly plenty of design differences between Apple's MacBook Air and those PCs, but if the Californian company did decide to get litigious, rival manufacturers could find their own wedge-shaped laptops in the firing line.

Apple has proved a ferocious legal foe when it comes to smart phones and tablets, taking Android manufacturers to courts all over the globe in numerous patent disputes, and claiming that Galaxy S3-maker Samsung 'slavishly' copied its own gadgets.

There are plenty of non-wedge shaped ultrabooks out there if you're shopping for something that looks a bit different -- point your peepers at the Toshiba Satellite Z830 for instance, or the new Dell Inspiron 14z or the Acer Aspire S3.

Apple, meanwhile, is expected to give its super-skinny laptop a refresh in a few days time. A retina display is tipped, but don't expect the wedge shape to go anywhere.

What do you think of the MacBook Air? Is it an overpriced hunk of aluminium? Or a sleek computer you'd happy sling in your satchel? Should Apple own exclusive rights to wedge-shaped laptops, or should other tech companies be allowed to craft similar machines? Opine in the comments or on our Facebook wall.

Image credit: The Verge