I recently read this blog post about a couple of patent applications that are owned by Apple that were recently published. The post discusses what the patent applications cover: one discloses a new process for manufacturing earbuds and headphones that result in a smoother outer layer–multiple parts can be seamlessly bonded together using this new process; while the other discloses a tool for deburring a rounded plastic surface.
The blog post struck me as interesting because just yesterday, I was speaking with a local business owner about how a patent can cover seemingly minor improvements in a product or its manufacturing process. The person I was talking to sells a fairly ubiquitous consumer product and assumed that patent protection was therefore unavailable to him. However, he had innovated during development of his product: The manufacturing process he created was unique and suited to his product. He also created improvements to the design of the product itself that allowed a new way to tailor the product for the consumer.
As those with experience in the patent field (including Apple’s patent counsel) know, a patent covering even small improvements can be extremely valuable.
- Apple patent describes effort to create smoother, “unibody” earbuds through ultrasonic bonding process
- United States Patent Application Publication No. 20120088059, titled “Curved Plastic Object and Systems and Methods for Deburring the Same”
- United States Patent Application Publication No. 20120087531, titled “Ultrasonically Welded Structures and Methods for Making the Same”