Ultrabook makers fear design patent lawsuits from Apple - report

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PC makers are said to be "facing threats from Apple" over Ultrabook designs that resemble the ultraportable MacBook Air.

Because of Apple's alleged threats, Windows-based Ultrabook makers are expected to invest more in research and development to avoid patent infringement lawsuits, according to DigiTimes. Some thin-and-light PC makers are said to have already hesitated with their Ultrabook plans in fear of a lawsuit from Apple.

The third-generation Ultrabooks set to hit the market in the second quarter of 2013 will reportedly feature 3D displays and high-definition user interfaces. PC makers are also expected to add new sensors, industry sources reportedly said.

Apple has shown a willingness to protect its patented designs for mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad, as evidenced by numerous lawsuits filed by Apple against competing device makers. But while Apple has been aggressive in protecting the design of its iOS devices, it has not yet taken aim at Ultrabook makers who compete with its MacBook Air lineup.

One executive at PC maker HP was asked earlier this year about similarities between the design of its company's new Windows-based Ultrabook and Apple's MacBook Air. Stacy Wolff, vice president of Industrial Design at Hewlett-Packard, dismissed concerns that Apple could sue and accuse HP of copying the design of the MacBook Air.

"Apple may like to think they own silver, but they don't," Wolff said. "In no way did HP try to mimic Apple. In life there are a lot of similarities."

Ultrabooks feature many of the same defining features as the MacBook Air: solid-state storage, instant-on capabilities, and super-thin design thanks to the lack of an optical drive. The Ultrabook specification was created by chipmaker Intel in an effort to spur sales of Windows-based notebooks.