Inspired by Microsoft, Apple applies for a Surface-style keyboard patent

Apple likes to create stunningly beautiful technology, but sometimes it may appear that they are simply imitating others and slapping on the word “Magic” or “Super” to create unique branding. This situation may be the case with a very Microsoft Surface-style keyboard cover that Apple is trying to patent. We say 'trying' because Apple is only applying for the patent, but they have not yet been granted one. That process could take months or even years before it is approved.

The new patent filed by Apple showcases a new smart cover within an attached keyboard. It appears that the keyboard itself would disconnect from the smart cover when needed and work wirelessly with the Apple tablet. The patented device is apparently a flat surface that could operate through “capacitive, resistive, optical, acoustic, inductive, mechanical, chemical, or electromagnetic” means. The patent application also contains coverage for users being able to use multitouch commands across the keys.

Apple and Microsoft borrow ideas from each other very often, so it might be a bit unfair to stare Apple down for what simply might be a great business decision. It does not take a scientist to figure out that Microsoft found inspiration for their stores within Apple and that the Cupertino based company might simply be borrowing back. That, and they probably see the advantage of having this accessory to compete with the Surface.

Connecting the new smart cover to the tablet would be available through a new series of magnets that would also be able to transmit electricity for charging the device. That being said, we are not sure if adding magnets to your keyboard and flattening it out is the same as stealing an idea.

What do you think – is this patent application an Apple original or a rip off of Microsoft’s Touch Cover?

Source: Patently Apple; via WinBeta


Reader comments

Inspired by Microsoft, Apple applies for a Surface-style keyboard patent



Indeed. Microsoft needs to set more foot in the corporate sector with Windows 8 and Surface to replace the iPad. And now they release Office for iPad before Office for Modern UI. I have no idea what they're doing at the moment... But then again, I'm no market strategist...

Its money. Microsoft believes it can make more money selling office for iPad than they can selling surfaces.

Exactly. There are way more iPads in people's hands than Surface right now. Gotta go where the money is, like it or not.

They can only view and have to buy a subscription to be able to edit. The surface everything is free.

Why would MS waste time getting a Modern version of Office if Office currently runs on all MS devices? Having a Modern version is like an add on. MS wants everyone to use Office, which ties the to MS services. Now that it's available for iPad they can concentrate on Modern.

Office for iPad is to keep office file format as defacto standard.
if users switch to iWork, and then Mac, they will not switch back to PC.

Many friends of mine bought Mac after they have their iPad.

^this. not sure why people complaining about office for surface though...surface rt, all 8" or smaller windows tab comes with full office for free...on other windows devices it is avilable for ages. People still comparing surface to ipad is really stupid.

No, They released Offiec for iPad because... well they said why... they want to reach out to all their customers. Unlike Apple, who only makes their products work with their other products. MS products work with everything.

Office for ipad should best take off with a keyboard. So this is not necessarily a bad thing for MS. We'll just have to see how MS stays ahead of Apple while tapping into their Office users.

I have been using iPad for first time since last eight months and my first few months were exciting .. But now i feel all the apps have exactly same design and i cannot do anything on it except play games... I was saving to buy Microsoft Surface Pro... But not anymore... Today Microsoft has chosen short term income over long term benefits  by availing three strategic advantage to its competitor. I have already downloaded Microsoft Word, Excell and PowerPoint on my Ipad and I have suspended my Surface Pro indefinitely .. Uninstalled some rubbish games to make space for Microsoft Office, finally something productive I can do with this stupid useless tablet: IPad.

They could have not allowed MS Office in Ipad.. People want to do something productive would have eventually moved to Surface Pro or other Windows Tablet... And they could have charged the same 99 per year there on windows tabs... Which i think they are already for office 365 ... Its like i am bmw n i have the best engine, i don't sell my engine to other car makers n simultaneously use it in ky own car too.. That engine was my selling point, my competitive advantage.. Its not a good business decision.

Saying any tablet is a ripoff of Apple is like saying Windows Phone is a ripoff of the Newton.

No it isn't. Apple literally created that market segment. Regardless of what anyone may have tried, and presumably failed at, beforehand - no one was talking about tablets or buying them prior to the iPad. You're argument inappropriately broadens the scope of the concept of 'ripping-off' being proffered here. Apple created the market segment, and everyone has followed them there. I'm a Microsoft guy, don't get me wrong, but what I said is indisputable. That said, anyone will follow anyone if the first was successful at it, so I suppose I agree with you that far.

Jobs didn't invent the beard. You're making a false equivalence. Apple created the market for tablets; thus, those that follow are, in common parlance, ripping them off; or to put it more nicely, 'sharing in their success'.

do you even realise what you are saying lol? i think you have logic issues. you accuse him of creating false equivalencies yet you equate "expanding the oversized smartphone (-phone capability) market" to "inventing tablets" and then conclude that all subsequent tablets must "obviously be copies of apple's tablet". meditate a bit and get your brain patterns in sync again, son.


i think you are a few screwdrivers short of a complete toolbox

No offense Top Gun, but I didn't say they invented tablets, I said they created the market segment - i.e. no one was buying them before they marketed one; thus, there was effectively no market. Further, no one else would be selling them if Apple hadn't created that market - thus, other companies that have entered that market are following their lead and/or ripping them off. Nice try Chief, but you made a straw man argument out of what I said. There is a little logic for you.

If your rebuttal will be to start a semantic argument about what a precise definition of 'ripped off' would be, please stop before you do. Arguments that get that nuanced about definitions rarely bare fruit.

saying it twice doesn't make it true, i'm not rebutting your argument, just pointing out you have no argument.

whether or not apple even existed tablets would be sold. i don't see why you have to make it any more complicated.

maybe you just like mentally masturbating over falsehoods. sorry you dont get to fob off your 3 comments worth of falsehoods just by dismissing semantics. in the real world everyone agrees ripping off in the conventional sense means stealing an invention that no other had come up with before, not entering a market with many existing players whether one happened to be dominant at the time or not.

comprende? or is this all still too complicated for you? slimy one aren't you trying to re-define words and backpedal lol

"I didn't say they invented tablets"

"Jobs didn't invent the beard. You're making a false equivalence"


Do you see the issue here or not? Please don't think you are smarter than you are because it is plain for all to see that you are not lol

Sorry, I didn't realize that I was arguing with the venerable 'Nacho Bear'. Buddy, your misstep here is not understanding the difference between inventing a product and inventing a market segment. They are two different things. I'm sorry you're getting butt-hurt, but I have to repeat the same thing because you've failed to see the difference more than once. This isn't a case of me thinking I'm smarter than I am, you simply just can't follow a sound argument and frequently commit yourself to logical fallacy; most recently beng the use of ad hominem arguments.

And so we're clear, pointing out that I said 'invented' in reference to two different things isn't a false equivalence on my part, it is one on your part. Further, and this is exactly the type of semantic argument I was hoping to avoid, I have obviously been using the term ripped-off to indicate a bunch of companies running into the tablet market to 'rip-off' the success of Apple. To say that people would still be selling tablets without them is a bit rich - the fact that another company may have invented the product does not mean that they would have sold any significant amount. In this case, Apple created the MARKET SEGMENT that everyone now competes in. Its like how Nokia invented the touch screen, but didn't effectively market one until after Apple had done so. Apple created the market for touch screen phones. I don't say this is an Apple fan - I'm a Microsoft guy, but facts are facts.

Like we established, you enjoy mentally masturbating over sweet FA. As for ad hominems, your passive aggresive sarcastic tone by calling me Chief and Top Gun was not unnoticed. By the same token neither was your rightful recognition of your superior. I AM the venerable Nachobear and yes facts are facts.

"Its like how Nokia... " Child, stop digging a bigger hole for yourself with more useless analogies.

"I don't say this is an Apple fan - I'm a Microsoft guy" Repeating yourself, albeit with terrible English, serves no purpose.

Apple didn't invent anything or create a market, just expanded it by exploiting the public cattle with cheesy marketing for a short period and somehow have even managed to swindle a "Microsoft guy" (whatever that is lol) into believing their hype. Apple products are designed to fleece overpaid Americans who feel validated through fashion labels.

I will wait to hear back from you with a humble apology or a clear admission that Apple's next release of a slightly larger phone is clearly "ripping off" Samsung/Sony/Nokia/HTC/LG.

If neither of the above materialise I fully expect you to take me to your dealer so that we can all enjoy what you are smoking too.

I don't why I'm replying to this, but what the hell, I am.

1. The Nokia analogy worked perfectly to illustrate what I was saying. I fail to see how calling me 'child' detracts from that.

2. When I said that I am a 'Microsoft guy' I was merely trying to detract from the image you have me as an iSheep, which I'm not. If this helps in any way, you might be happy to know that I use a Windows desktop & laptop, an L920, and have an XBone.

3. Apple did effectively create that market. It is hard to argue that the market existed before if no one, or virtually no one, was buying products in that segment. I genuinely don't mean to sound rude, but I can't argue with you about whether or not the sky is blue. Sometimes things just are what they are. You could make the same argument, albeit it'd be a bit more contentious, that Microsoft effectively created the consumer market for computers with Windows 95, if not its predecessor.

4. I never used an ad hominem to detract from one of your arguments, they were meant as direct shots at you, not your arguments; and I only wrote them in response to barbs you initially flung my way.

5. Now, things we agree on. Yes, on the conception of 'ripping-off' I was using in my initial post, Apple is most certainly ripping-off Samsung, et al (but mostly Samsung) by entering the 'phablet' market segment. It is a segment that was all but created by Samsung, it became popular, now ever other company and their mothers are following suit. Which is exactly what happened with tablets; and that is all that I was saying before.

6. Another thing we agree on is that Apple is largely successful, especially in the last 4-5 years, based solely on wildly successful marketing. They have gotten into the heads of the average consumer that their products are better than the rest and they do it with virtually no empirical evidence to back it up. Their products have been bettered by more powerful, functional, and cheaper alternatives in almost every category. In fact, I would argue that tablets may never have really become a 'thing'if it wasn't Apple who marketed them in the first place - without a whole slew of people having blind-loyalty to a company, it is difficult to imagine that a product, which you aptly called an over-sized smartphone, gaining any popularity whatsoever.

In any event, I hope this clears the air; and for the record, I have never owned an Apple product or fallen victim to their hype.

If you still want to meet my dealer, feel free to respond ;).

Dude, did you notice that you are getting ripped-off by everyone here?? because you created this Segment of definition of ripping off. Now anyone comments on this post is ripping you off!!!

Holy cow!! i am speechless!

It will be called "Retina Keyboard" ...it will be the most accurate, fastest, lightest, user friendly keyboard ever made of unicorn skin and fairy dust...

You can patent a variant of something if there is an appreciable and significant difference between the original and that which you are attempting to patent. Apple has only applied for the patent so far, we'll see if they get it.

Only problem is when someone patenting something generic enough that others will have difficulties innovating and making variations without breaking the patent. The line is not easy to tell.

Based solely on the fact that they are filing a patent for it now, I have to assume you're incorrect - at least to some degree.

They can make an artsy commercial with people dancing around snapping on keyboards and it will get rave reviews at its creativity.

Eric Schmidt is the guy that ignited the Microsoft hate. He has been bitter towards Microsoft ever since Novell fell badly from Microsoft's stranglehold in the market.

Yeah same here. I have no problem at all (on my MS fanboy side) that apple and MS are borrowing/working together on things which they have done for years. But google, no thanks.

APIs that don't work. I have tried Translation API v2 on Windows Phone project and code is crashing. Their own example code that you can find on their site.

Well, it's apple... they managed to get a patent on the round edges on the ipad..which is ridiculous 

What actually is the difference between a patent and a trademark.   I could see Apple trying to trademark a look and feel of their iDevices.  I don't understand how a patent for how something looks can be justified.  I think of a patent as being for an algorithm or method for creating/modifying/accessing something.  

TechCrunch reported that Apple's patent involved a unique feature compared to Touch Cover. They said it supported gestures. Doesn't Touch cover do it too.?

In a way I believe so, especially so on the music/dj cover thing.

But even if Touch Cover has it, we will 100% sure hear the argument, "but none of that was really usable until Apple introduced their method, Apple made it easy to use and it's now perfect".


Why do I have a feeling that the apple fans will say apple innvented this and other companies are copying them and every apple fanboy and girl will agree ._.

App switcher itself was a ripoff of webOS. Bad comparison. There were little things that got ripped off WP were icloud, quick launch of camera WiFi sync from WP7 (which ironically isn't present in WP8)

MS should patent a built-in kickstand for tablets so that everyone else will have to use something external.

I don't see any problem with patenting things, but this one is too general so they would be able to tax everyone for making something similar, even Microsoft itself if they make a Touch Cover 3

Apple's 'Inspiration' (notice how it's a word that starts with an I) for the stores came from Gateway. At least that's the story I was told.

If I was MS I might push back on this one. The Surface Covers are really its one unique feature that everyone kind of likes

That really depends on the strength of Microsoft's patents. Of they are too similar, the patent office should deny this application. But we'll see.

No, because it can be considered "prior art" even if not patented by Microsoft. This was stated in the Apple vs. Samsung patent wars.

Earlier it was reported that they patented see through texting so you can text and see the ground while you're walking. This has been available as an app on other platforms for years.

Apple knows how to sell it though. It will be the first, most magical highest quality keyboard for a tablet there ever is. That nobody every seen before.

Still no kickstand and that is crucial for this type cover functionality.

Not even the Nokia's 2520 cover comes close to the Surface design.

Seems like there is too much prior art on this to be valid, unless it goes significantly above and beyond the Touch Cover. Hell, "multi touch commands" is worded so simply that Ctrl-C would be covered.

I might give it a shot with a surface 2, replacing the surface logo with an Apple and eBay it to see how much it fetches.

I might just go trademark the word copivent/copivented....its got a certain ring to it...
To Copivent: the act of taking an idea, making an insignificant or indefinable change and claiming the result to be a new invention...

If they can sue Samsung for patent infringement for glass, then they most definitely should not be allowed a patent for this. F'n hate apple to the core.

Satya just might be an Apple implant as he's just given his competitor the upper hand by introducing office touch for iPad, now hours after its intro Apple. files a patent for a surface like keyboard. Guess they'll take the enterprise now. Microsoft better have some major mojo up it sleeves if it wants to survive this. Never thought I'd say this, but in a few years, we might be forced to use apple products in the enterprise as consumers work in the enterprise. I guess the i-Mc’Hybrids are coming next and they will be considered revolutionary even though they were introduce by Ballmer & Win 8.

Sorry but iPad Office hardly is a match for the full suite on your surface, not even close. For starters let's talk macros.. Not supported on iPad and there goes a major share of your usability. Office on iPad is geared towards consuming content much more then creating it. Just like the basic concept and 'OS' on the iPad is.

Good points. Office for iPad is also for getting mindshare of Apple users. Think back to the iPod/iTunes being made available for Windows users. I would have never purchased one had they not done that and I now own an iPad.

All these people that use Microsoft's apps on iPad will try new ones, begin to trust Microsoft and maybe even install their software on their PC or Macintosh. Now Microsoft is reaching millions (and making billions) off of Apple's very own user base.

Office for iPad is a Trojan Horse.

This would have been a good article if you hadn't ruined it with that pointless "Good artists copy, great artists steal" jab.

It's only consumers who benefit from the copying of ideas - it means we don't have to buy a Surface just for that keyboard (or Office) or buy an iPad because it looks cool.


Apple definitely doesn't innovate as much anymore with Jobs gone, and this is a pretty big example. At the same time, though, I can't fault them for it-- it's an accessory that would make good sense for the iPad.

i hope you where being ironic, finger print readers have been on mobile phones since waaaaay back.

It's been on absent machine too for I don't know how long. It doesn't really take a brilliant innovator before someone put it on phone anyway.

We start with the apple magic *cough* touch cover keyboard and we continue with the galaxy *cough* touch cover keyboard. Both of them innovative and patented of course of course

They waited until ms announced office for ipad. They know what a huge victory this is. Lacking office almost killed the mac back in the day. Ms gave them office to prevent becoming a monopoly. Ms should have kept office because it was all that kept apple from becoming one as well. The appstore now has it all.

no, just no. Apple is WAAAY worse then Google, im fine with google but apple is just stealing and suing. Google atleast play fair compared to Apple...

Apple is just pathetic. I've come to hate Google more now. Playing fair? You must be new here if you think Google does that. They are horrible.

Wait, don't Apple and Microsoft have across-licensing agreement allowing each other to use the others patents freely? If I'm correct, shouldn't this not be a big deal for Microsoft?

Probably. Probably not. It doesn't really matter. That isn't what people will be concerned with...

This is fine. It's a clever idea. However, I think there is one thing that will annoy me more than I'd like to admit.  People will swear its the best thing ever yet refuse to acknowledge or live in ignorant bliss and swear that the innovation as Apple's.  This would be unfortunate.

It doesn't mean anything. Both companies file patents all the time (10s of 1000s per year) about all kinds of tech, whether a real product or not, or a real piece of software, or just a concept). It allows leverage and actually agreement between the companies should they eventually have infringement down the road. This is just one example in a huge sea of tech. WPCentral of course are quick to report it, but not so quick to cite similar patents filed by Microsoft. Take a look at popular public US patent sites, they are teaming with this stuff from all kinds of companies. This article is a 'noop'.

This magical article is patented by Apple. Anyone reading this owes Apple 30% for our magical genius

I guarantee apple claims it as the next cool thing and their best innovation to the tablet industry yet!

Yeah, simply because all we've seen from Microsoft is touch/type covers.....where the other cover they mentioned last year? Mix covers, etc.....the dragging *ss is going to cost them if they keep waiting for others

Hopefully for iPad users it will work better than the brand new Type 2 cover I'm using right now on my brand new Surface Pro 2. Very frustrating products these are. Type cover only works part of the time - either it won't respond to anything when connected or sometimes it will start typing as if I were holding down a key with no way to stop it other than removing the keyboard and re-attaching. I can't count how many times I've had to remove and re-attach the keyboard to get it to work - every single day I've used it from day one this has been an issue (only been using it one week).

Why do people insist on presenting this sort of sheer idiocy? Yes, they are trying to patent something similar to a patented Microsoft product, but it is not identical.  It is also almost assured that elements covered by a Mircosoft patent are part of a royalty agreement.  Microsoft and Apple have had a comfortable relationship for years and both recognize the company not to trust is Google....

Forget ripping off, I really want to see Apple release this ASAP and promoted the hell out of and see people buying it up in loads.  Can't wait for all those people (especially from techblogs like The Verge) who claims hybrids don't work, has no demand and solves no problems do some stunning aerobatics to justify how it's different this time.  Those backflip would be so entertaining to watch.

It's fine that Apple copies this from MS, but what I don't find "fine" is that Apple is then going like: because we make it, it's magical en revolutionary. And the sad thing is people will indeed think Apple invented the keyboard-cover.

I don't know what to call it, but I have this very strong feeling that Apple would come up with a way way better touch cover than Microsoft. It might even be foldable like the smart cover they already have, the fact that it would act as a bluetooth keyboard when dettached may be not invention but surely innovation. Microsoft needs to up the game when it comes to quality.

iPad: revolutionary and the best innovation ever.
MS made tablets 10+ years ago but it failed because of MS failed to create interest.
Retina display: 300 PPI! Magical!
People think it's the best even though there are better and denser displays.
iOS 7: Borrowed multitasking from windows phone realtime apps preview from both wp and android, induced motion sickness in people, made safari much like Google chrome. But hey, it is the best innovation ever! Mind blowingly magical.

All this and people still consider apple new and revolutionary.
The fact is just that MS doesn't market their products as aggressively as apple, which is why apple steals away from Microsoft and people think that MS lags behind with no innovations.
Ms needs to create a 'wow' effect in people and regain what respect belongs to them.

Posted via the WPC App for Android!

I bet if Apple releases a keyboard cover like this for the iPad people will call it revolutionary and claim they invented the keyboard despite the Surface already having this technology.

One thing...
No matter how much they pay the judges to get away with it...