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In defense of Apple owning the concept of a paper bag

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How dare you

First released in April, Apple’s iconic paper bag is already beloved by millions throughout the world. But now, the bag is coming under fire.

Apple’s patent application for its (really very good) bag was published earlier this week and is already drawing hurtful and unwarranted mockery for its elegant and simple language, which includes such koans as "bags are often used for containing items" and "the paper bag may include a bag container."

Surely (the argument goes) Apple can’t patent the very concept of the paper bag, an object deployed for literally decades with little to no changes. Can Apple’s bag be so revolutionary, so groundbreaking, as to require its own patent?

The answer is yes. The bag is good, and deserves all the support we can give it.

"Bags are often used for containing items"

Part of the confusion comes from the way the patent is structured, starting with the broadest possible statement of the idea and then gradually narrowing. The first claim is simply "a bag container formed of white paper with at least 60% post-consumer content." Subsequent claims narrow that scope, specifying specific adhesives, specific materials and specific construction.

The real meat of the patent comes in the 35th paragraph, specifying a specific reinforcement system to compensate for the structural weaknesses of Apple’s recycled paper.

Apple clearly put a lot of thought into this! The same designers on the patent also worked on things like Apple’s magnetic charging system and Nike shoe components so clearly they’re throwing their best minds at the bag problem. And this bag, the result of that labor, is (presumably) the best and most intuitive bag Apple has ever produced.

What a joyous time into which we have been born!

Should this patent be granted? I’ll leave the final determination to the patent office. Still, it’s important to note that bag technology has remained stagnant for decades, due in large part to the failure of our legal system to provide robust IP protections for bag research and bag development.

Without patent protections, corporations cannot retain the benefits of innovation; instead, those benefits fall to the ground as quickly as dongles from a ruptured bag. Denying this patent would stifle bag innovation yet further.