One may assume that Apple and their outside council know a thing or two about design patents. Recently I looked through the file wrapper of their Lightning Connector design application 29/426,587.
Here are some observations:
- The Design Application was filed on July 6th, 2012. The connector was introduced to the public on September 12th, 2012.
- Apple filed a Rocket Docket request – but not until January 2013, after the connector had been publicly released.
- The initial application contains a total of 144 figures, covering pretty much every possible permutations of claiming /not claiming design elements of the connector. The application was reduced to just one embodiment by preliminary amendment at the time of the rocket docket request.
- The initial application was filed with a lengthy appendix which includes the figures and various photographs. It seems the application is trying to over-disclose in order to prevent possible future new matter rejection.
- Up until now 9 continuation applications have been filed. Not all have published, but it seems save to assume that those cover permutations of the design that were removed from the lead application, likely in anticipation of a restriction requirement.
The practices used in this application might be generalized to the following best practices:
- File a design application before public release of your product, and follow-up with a rocket docket request just after publication.
- Have one lead-application which shows a complete design, and various permutations of design elements converted from solid lines to dotted lines.
- Use an “appendix” to submit photos or any other documentation that may be useful to counter “new matter” rejections if any changes need to be made to the drawings.