On Friday afternoon, The New York Times' Nick Bilton posted an item on the paper's Bits blog entitled "Apple Now Owns The Page Turn," citing U.S. Patent D670,713.
Incredulous, Bilton wrote:
This design patent, titled, “Display screen or portion thereof with animated graphical user interface,” gives Apple the exclusive rights to the page turn in an e-reader application.
Yes, that’s right. Apple now owns the page turn. You know, as when you turn a page with your hand. An “interface” that has been around for hundreds of years in physical form. I swear I’ve seen similar animation in Disney or Warner Brothers cartoons.
(This is where readers are probably checking the URL of this article to make sure it’s The New York Times and not The Onion.)
It is not, apparently, quite so simple, as a flotilla of commenters on the item has pointed out.
In a piece this morning titled "No, Apple doesn't own the mobile 'page turn,'" CBS Moneywatch's Erik Sherman says that Bilton got it wrong, noting the difference between utility patents and design patents, surmising, essentially, that Apple only owns the specific look of its page turn, not the idea of the digital page turn. He points out that Apple referenced numerous previous patents on the technology in its patent application:
In short, if you want to protect how something works or what it does, you need a utility patent. A design patent protects what it looks like.
We've got a call in to a patent attorney to get his take. We'll update if we hear more.