Apple and patents, Apple and patents! These three words are enough to send shivers down the spines of hardware vendors the world over —particularly if these vendors are ultrabook makers.

A recent patent filing with Apple’s name on it has done just that.

Apple introduced the MacBook Air back in 2007, and the ultrathin design led to notebook makers rushing to get on par with this new form factor, this new standard of thinness. But now it appears that the fruity company many do something similar.

Digitimes, this time citing Taiwan based supply chain sources, reports that Apple’s new patent application is for a hybrid port — one that combines USB and SD slots. This new design is supposed to save space on the exterior of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.

Ultrabook makers, then, are concerned that if Apple obtains the patent it will gain the upper hand in the competition for slim, thin and light notebooks.

Connector maker Kuang Ying estimates that significant space savings can be achieved by combing the SD card ports and USB plugs;

“If the two ports are combined, brand vendors will be able to save about 12-13mm of space on their notebooks’ exterior design, allowing them to add more functions.”

Notebook sales have been declining these past few years, leaving brand vendors and hardware makers little choice than to innovate and develop new solutions. Apple’s new patent, if granted, could complicate things for them on the ultrabook front, where space is already at a steep premium.

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