Apple was recently awarded a design patent – US D674,382 – covering their infamous trackpad found on their entire line of notebooks. The patent specifically covers how the trackpad looks when housed on a portable computer; it has nothing to do with how the trackpad functions.
The Verge notes how it’s pretty broad in terms of design patents but there are some specifics that are mentioned. For example, the patent makes it clear that only the trackpad and the adjacent boundary lines of the notebook are displayed with solid lines. Other specifics include the use of glass as a building material, a common trait among Apple trackpads.
Even with glass mentioned, it’s important to understand that Apple didn’t get a patent for all glass trackpads. As the publication correctly points out, other manufacturers could build similar trackpads but implement buttons above or below the trackpad. Other options could include changing the amount of space between the pad and the front edge of the notebook or the pad and the bottom of the spacebar key.
Interestingly enough, the patent shows multiple different trackpads. A few versions are shown with a metallic surface covering the trackpad while some are free of any coating. I guess if you are filing a patent, it’s best to cover as many bases as possible which is what Apple has seemingly done in that department. Even still, it’s relatively easy to get around a specific patent with just a tiny bit of creativity.