If there’s a line, this latest patent definitely crosses it: Apple now officially has a patent for a rectangle with rounded corners, which is the overall shape for both the iPhone and iPad. However, it isn’t all rosy news for Apple’s legal team: there is such thing as too broad a patent:
Previous design patents on the iPad and iPhone have included at least one additional feature in solid lines — like the home button, the back surface contour, the bezel shape,the side profile, or the edge-to-edge screen. This one ignores all of that and simply focuses on the shape of that peripheral edge. It’s a broad patent. Really broad. Granted, an argument can be made that the horizontal and vertical lengths of the solid edge line in the drawings limits the patent coverage to a specific proportional design that excludes tablets with different aspect ratios, but you wouldn’t want that to be your primary defense.
Will Apple ever use this patent against its competitors? Maybe, but there’s an inherent downside to asserting a patent like this: it’s vulnerable to invalidity arguments. The narrower a patent is the harder it is to find prior art devices or publications that have everything you need to knock it out.
The above quote is from The Verge, and the general tone is that, while patent does have the patent, it isn’t expected to be all that useful in any case.