The MacBook Air wedge aesthetic: Now an Apple patent

Apple secures a patent for the wedge profile sported by the MacBook Air.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
Dell XPS 13 ultrabook: The Wedge aesthetic has been adopted by all major ultrabook suppliers.
Dell XPS 13 ultrabook: The Wedge aesthetic has been adopted by all major ultrabook suppliers. Dell
MacBook Air.
MacBook Air. Apple

A new Apple patent may signal legal wrangling ahead for the Windows laptop wedge design crowd -- which means pretty much every major PC maker on the planet.

Apple's patent No. D661,296 S is described as "the ornamental design for an electronic device" and shows about a dozen images (PDF) of wedge-shaped Apple MacBook Air-like designs.

Apple's wedge aesthetic: patent No. D661,296 S.
Apple's wedge aesthetic: patent No. D661,296 S. The Verge/United States Patent and Trademark Office

The patent documentation states that "the broken lines are for the purpose of illustrating portions of the electronic device and form no part of the claimed design," as The Verge points out.

So that seems to exclude aspects of a laptop's external design that are not material to the wedge contour itself such as a unique hinge component.

Of course, all this hinges on (pun intended) how aggressively Apple defends its patent: the wedge design is really an imperative for any ultrabook maker because the tapered design allows a laptop to be thicker where it needs to be -- e.g., the back hinge -- and thinner at the front, economizing weight and average thickness.

And there are degrees of likeness to the wedged MacBook Air. Some ultrabooks have more of a likeness to the MacBook Air than others.

Also, don't forget that it's the newer MacBooks announced back in 2010 that have the most pronounced wedge design. Earlier versions of the Air had much more subtle tapering and "wedge" was not typically used to describe those 2008 and 2009 designs.

Asus UX31 ultrabook.
Asus UX31 ultrabook. Asus