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Did Apple Steal the Idea for the iPad 2 Smart Cover?

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We should've known better than to think it would stop with the Thunderbolt name.

Many are accusing Apple of lifting another idea from a third party. This time, it's the foldable iPad 2 cover. The segmented cover -- in polyurethane or leather -- creates a magnetic seal over the iPad 2's screen. But when folded over, the Smart Cover becomes a handy kickstand of sorts, allowing for easier typing or a prime angle for watching video.

Although it's a very Apple-esque product, it seems as if another company had already thought of it. Two companies, if you're willing to think abstractly.

The foldable iPad case originates with the third party manufacturer Incase. Dubbed the Convertible Magazine Jacket, the original accessory folds in the exact same fashion as Apple's Smart Cover and creates the exact same kickstand, seen here:

Technologer's Nir Ben Yona calls this damning evidence against Cupertino. "Shocking! This isn't Apple's original idea, and all that's left is to figure out whether the Cupertino designing division got permission to use Incase design, got inspired from it, or just 'borrowed' the idea without even asking."

Going one step further, Kelly Hodgkins of the Unofficial Apple Weblog notes similarity with a more disparate product -- namely a Japanese bathtub lid.

The pairing of the two images made the rounds through Japan and includes a Japanese phrase which translates to "Completely identical."

Although Apple no doubt saw Incase's accessory, the question remains on whether Incase had a hand in the design -- or was even compensated at all. As for the makers of Japanese bathtub lids, it's safe to assume no one had to break out an English-to-Japanese dictionary.

(See also: Does Apple Have a Trademark Dispute in Its Near Future? and Infographic: Apple's iPad 2 Compared to Motorola Xoom and HP TouchPad)

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