Apple Watch IP Analysis: A Closer Look

What do Apple patents reveal about the Apple Watch? Our world renowned IP attorney and analyst, Archimedes IP’s Tom Ewing, takes a look.


aNewDomain — Now that Apple has announced its so-called Apple Watch, our intellectual property attorney and IP strategist Tom Ewing takes a deep look at Apple’s IP strategies and the ongoing development of Brand Apple.

Described as a comprehensive health and fitness device, you control the Apple Watch via a traditional watch dial or crown, which Apple calls the Digital Crown. You use the crown to scroll through lists and zoom in on maps and other images.

How does this and other not-so-original Apple Watch features matter IP-wise? And what other things can we find about the Apple Watch in Apple’s recently issued patents covering the device?

Well, the Apple Watch and image displays appears to be the subject of US Design Patent D711,427, and the Apple Watch and map display appear to be the subjects of US Design Patent D710,370.  There are likely many other design patents and utility patents related to the Apple Watch.  If the company has learned from its failed fight against Samsung, it’ll make sure these design and utility patents are tighter and far more disruptive than the ones it tried to use to protect its Apple iPhone.

At the Apple Watch announcement, Apple CEO Tim Cook showed off an enormous array of designs and straps. “It’s incredibly customizable,” Cook told the crowd, adding that though the Apple Watch works directly with the iPhone, it has its own native version of Apple iOS. But my legal analyst team at Archimedes notes that many of the technical features of the Apple Watch have been around for awhile. Features to support near-field communication (NFC), speech recognition, multiple shutter camera, body sensors and auto switching from Wi-Fi to wide area networks are in a ton of well established products.

So what’s new?

A look at the US patent databases provides a clue. The US Patent and Trademark Office has issued Apple at least eight US patents containing claims that specifically mention a “watch.” And there are some 324 patents whose specifications mention “watches” in general.  Apple has similarly obtained dozens of design patents that seemingly relate to the Apple Watch.  Though none of those design patents specifically mention “a watch” or “watches,” the dimensions of the devices and screens seem to more closely resemble the Apple Watch than other Apple products.  I’ve included one of these design patents below.

Above: Apple Design Patent No. 690,739.

The Apple Watch also stars in several patents recently issued to Apple.  Here’s Apple’s US Patent 8,787,006, which issued this July.

Above: Apple US Patent 8,787,006

The Apple brand is historically a huge Apple strength. Apple has become so protective of it that it has gone so far as obtaining at least one design patent that even covers the look of its Apple stores. Check out the drawing from US Design Patent 712,067, at right. Would competitors ever copy the design of an Apple Store? Probably not. But copying is even less likely with this new patent in play. The design it depicts, incidentally, sure looks a lot like the Apple flagship s n New York’s Fifthth Avenue in New York, incidentally.

That’s the background on which Apple CEO, Tim Cook, has set in motion the Apple Watch. And we’ll be watching. Stay tuned.

For aNewDomain, I’m Tom Ewing.

Image-1 credit:  Apple Watch, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Based in San Francisco, our Tom Ewing is one of the world’s leading IP attorneys and strategists. The above analysis came from work he performed for his IP analyst firm, Archimedes IP. If you have an idea about IP issues Tom should cover here, email him at Follow Tom’s page on Google+ here.