Microsoft collects 13 design patents for Surface, keyboard covers

Among the baker's dozen are several that illustrate design of magnetic couplings used to attach the Touch line of keyboard covers

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) yesterday awarded Microsoft 13 design patents for its Surface line of tablets, including their innovative Touch keyboards-slash-covers, according to published documents.

The baker's dozen were published by the USPTO on March 26, with multiple inventors noted for each design patent. They came just a week after four other design patents were awarded for other elements of the Surface.

Because they were design patents, the applications published by the USPTO did not delve into the functional details of the Surface or its cover, but instead outlined what's described as the "ornamental" aspects of the products.

Among the 13 was one specific to the type font used on the Surface, several related to the Touch Cover, and three describing the magnetic coupling used to attach the cover to the tablet.

Microsoft, which launched the Surface RT last October and the more expensive Surface Pro in January, has emphasized the covers in its online marketing and television advertising. Both tablets use the same mechanism to fix a cover to the device, and both can be equipped with either the $120 Touch Cover or the $130 Type Cover, a slightly thicker mechanical-key variant.

Some analysts believe that Apple will follow Microsoft into the keyboard market with a design of its own to partner with the larger 9.7-in. iPad, a step toward the "hybrid" design of the Surface Pro, which although squeezed into a tablet form factor, boasts specifications similar to, or even better than, many "ultrabook" notebooks.

Microsoft, in fact, has exploited Apple's lack of product like the Surface Pro to make the case that its device is 50% less expensive than a pairing of Apple's iPad tablet and MacBook Air laptop.

Several patents, including D678,880, illustrate the design of the Surface tablets' keyboards that double as covers. (Image: USPTO.)

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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