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Having read through the claims of Magsafe patent #7311526, I am not sure how it differs from previous examples of magnetic power connectors. What exactly is the novelty being claimed in that particular patent?

Certain deep fryers have had a magnetic connector for years in Japan and there was a project with Underwriters Laboratory to bring them to the US in the early 2000s:

http://www.dowell.com.hk/breakawaycord_news.htm

http://archives.cnn.com/2001/US/07/03/deep.fryers/

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Apple's patent references the patented technology you cited, among many others. –  user439 Sep 20 '12 at 16:44
    
Related: patents.stackexchange.com/questions/76/… –  Shog9 Sep 20 '12 at 16:56
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1 Answer

As John Daniel has commented, they reference those very examples of prior art you cite. Even though there is prior art it doesn't invalidate the patent because Apple have substantially improved on it. The novel parts are:

  • A symmetrical connector that can can be coupled in two or more orientations (claims 1-33)
  • The magnets within a connector are arranged in opposing polarities for improved coupling strength (claims 34-57)
  • The connector is decoupled without being damaged when driven by a non-axial (e.g., perpendicular) force. (claims 46, 51-54)
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I substantial improvement all that is required to get a patent? What is the line between improvement and non-obviousness? –  Thucydides411 Dec 8 '12 at 1:09
    
A novel, useful and non-obvious improvement can be patented. "Substantial" is not a requirement for patentability of improvements. –  George White Feb 16 '13 at 6:52
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