Legal Thought of the Day, No. 10: “Laptop” Computers

“The [4,571,456] patent, entitled ‘Portable Computer,’ was issued to David C. Paulsen et al., on February 18, 1986. The claims of the patent are directed to a portable computer contained within a compact metal case. A salient feature of the claimed invention is its ‘clam shell’ configuration, in which the computer’s display housing is connected to the computer at its midsection by a hinge assembly that enables the display to swing from a closed, latched position for portability and protection to an open, erect position for viewing and operation. Computers with this design are commonly referred to as ‘laptop’ computers.”

~Circuit Judge Lourie,
In re Paulsen, 30 F.3d 1475 (Fed.Cir.1994).

Lourie went on to affirm the Patent Office’s rejection of the patent application detailing the design of the so-called ‘laptop’ computer. Upon requests to re-examine the patent, it was discovered that the design was not new. It had been preceded by a Japanese inventor named Yokoyama, who used it in making a desktop calculator.


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