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Has Anyone Found the Pentalobe Screw Patent?

Hey everybody! Has anyone found the Pentalobe screw patent? I spent some time digging and I found something incredibly close but I did not find the *exact* bolt. Thanks!

Answer this question I have this problem too

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Why would we do that?

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@mayer maybe if apple didn't do that, We could patent it and screw them over?

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@mayer because we can? ;-)

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@oldturkey03 Thank you for your input. It is fantastic. I just looked through the related patents and I did not see a mention of the patent for the screw. It is possible that it may be a japanese patent and unfortunately that it not my main language :/.

To explain why I am investigating pentalobe screws: ifixit first found the pentalobe screw used by apple in 2009. At the time, it was extremely unpopular as a screw. It was used in practically nothing else besides the 2009 15-inch MacBook Pro and caused quite a stir, which may have lead people to believe it was an apple proprietary screw.

In a recent twitter post by Emma Laurijssens, she mentions her ipod hdd features such pentalobe screws and it was manufactured in 2007. This piqued my interest as I have never seen a hdd with screws other than torx or phillips. It seemed fitting that apple would consider implementing an oddball screw in the ipod hdd as it was the one component that they had exclusive rights to (18mo exclusivity rights with toshiba) during the mp3 player wars, and it would be within apple’s best interests to reduce competition.

So I started digging.

I found that Toshiba did use pentalobe screws on their MK5002MAL 5gb 1.8in hdds for the original ipod:

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It doesn't end there. It seems that Toshiba developed PC card II hdds with pentalobe. Toshiba advertised a "2gb PC Card HDD" in an April 2001 product brochure - months before the Apple ipod release on October 23, 2001. The 2gb pc card hdd acts as a 2gb expansion HDD for laptops that have pc card slots. Model number PA3079E-1PCC.

Here’s some brochures from toshiba about the drives:

Source: 1, 2, 3

Here's the later 5gb versions of the PC card. They all feature pentalobe screws:

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Source :1, 2, 3, 4

I think there's a way of looking up toshiba hdd manufacturing dates from the serial number on the drives. If any of these drives are plugged in the SMART data should show the production date.

With a bit more digging, I found a patent for the PC card HDD:

The patent is from 11/22/1991 and not originally assigned by toshiba. It was assigned to Fujitsu Limited, which is rather strange since it looks identical to the toshiba pc card drives. Some related PC card patents:

1992 from maxtor

1998 from citizen watch

1992 from EMC group

None of the PC card patents show a screw in the diagrams. I have not found a direct reference to the pentalobe screw in any of the PC card patents either.

I have found some patents that are very close to the Pentalobe screw. Here’s my closest find. It’s from 1989: (hint not TSwift album :D)

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It shows a 5 lobes screw with the appropriate style recess, however the star shaped five vane recess is supposed to be rounded at the points of the star and the patent I found shows it flat.

There is a recent japanese torque screwdriver patent that directly mentions the pentalobe screw, but I can’t understand it. From 2011:

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If anyone wants to lend a hand there that would be great. I still have to get used to the japanese patent search system as it was down yesterday and I couldn’t try it out.

My conclusions so far:

I don’t believe apple designed or developed the screw as the screw existed a decade before the ipod came to fruition. It is possible apple never produced this screw either and just purchased it from a supplier, choosing pentalobe just for its exclusivity. Maybe the weird screw was intended for use among HDD manufacturers. I am not sure yet.

Possible original designers could include IBM, toshiba, fujistu, and even FANUC (fujistu heavy machinery division). IBM released the Microdrive in 1998 and then sold their HDD division to hitachi and HGST formed from 2002-03, so hitachi is out.  Interestingly, IBM micro drives used a tri-wing screw.

I spent quite a bit of time researching this, yet it seems there is still a bit more digging to do. Let’s do this people :D

Edit: I’m linking @kaykay because she wrote a piece on the pentalobe screw

Full disclosure: I am doing this research in my leisure. I don’t work for apple or any HDD manufacturer. Not intending to shame anyone or any company, just trying to find the origins of this mysterious screw.

-Anthony Kouttron

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Given the length of time its also likely any patient may have expired! If thats the case then there is no licensed ownership.

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Good point. There is a big chance that the patent for the pentalobe screw has expired. Regardless, it would be nice to find out when it was created and it's original intended purpose. Who knows, it may not even be called a pentalobe screw! :D

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I came across some interesting stuff while researching the "tamper resistant fastener" category. Even so the patent may have expired we should still find the patent application for it. Like @salvagedcircuit mentioned, the major issue could be that it is not a US patent. Where was it filed and who owns it?

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@oldturkey03 Exactly! I'm hoping the patent is cross listed so it will show up in a normal search. Otherwise, yeah it might be a patent in another language. I'll give the temper resistant screw / fastener terminology another search. Thanks!

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@salvagedcircuit any chance you could share what you've found? Maybe we can try to expand on it etc. I guess you are really sending us on a mission now ;-) Love what Apple has to say on page 42/43 in US patent 10,061,361 B2 from Aug. 28,2018

More fun parts to read are in US patent 8,736,286 "Electronic devices such as desktop personal computers, laptop or notebook computers, smartphones, and portable digital media players are often tampered with by the end user or consumer. For example, some users would like to test their do-it-yourself abilities and attempt to repair or improve the performance of an electronic device by opening its exterior housing and attempting to remove or modify electronic components inside, such as a printed wiring board or printed circuit board (PCB). " and that is how they justify the use of tamper-proof fasteners :-(

Patent 8,339,775 is pretty much the only one I can find that mentions "pentalobe fasteners". So, I wonder if any of the references cited would give more of a clue about those.

5278725 January 1994 Konno et al.

5283862 February 1994 Lund

5325984 July 1994 Ady et al.

5355278 October 1994 Hosoi et al.

6392880 May 2002 Forlenza et al.

6437773 August 2002 Kornmayer et al.

2004/0027341 February 2004 Derocher

2005/0057525 March 2005 Sun

2006/0146031 July 2006 Wang et al.

2008/0174941 July 2008 Mundt et al.

2008/0316691 December 2008 Arends

2009/0179537 July 2009 Morino et al.

2009/0257184 October 2009 Lee et al.

2010/0091442 April 2010 Theobald et al.

2010/0092845 April 2010 Spare et al.

2010/0147581 June 2010 Mitomi

2010/0259891 October 2010 Tachikawa

2011/0021054 January 2011 Huang

Foreign Patent Documents

2008-225980 Sep 2008 JP

2009-059285 Mar 2009 JP

@captainsnowball possible that Apple does not hold the patent. They may just be using someone else's patent which would be okay.

Getting to large for a comment so I posted it as an answer.

Update (12/03/2018)

Interesting enough and maybe it’ll warrant checking on the Torx patents “Tamper-Resistant TORX PLUS Drive

This unique TORX PLUS variation incorporates a five lobe design and a solid post formed in the center of the recess.”

“In the late 1980s, Bryce Fastener began manufacturing the pentagon shaped drive with a rejection pin. Even after 18 years the Penta-Plus™ design remains extremely secure. The reason for this is that all driver bits are made in house at Bryce Fastener and driver bit sales are controlled and never sold through distribution or to the general public. If a potential customer intends to resell driver bits with their product, Bryce Fastener declines the sale.” from here

Here is a patent that refers to something called a multilobular fastener, mentions Torx but is not specifically referring to Torx

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Wow! @oldturkey03 - A lot of good research!

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There is some inconsistency in the pentalobe screw depictions. The apple patent mentioned shows the pentalobe screw as a 5 circle recess, where the circles are joined at a sharp corner. Other representations of the pentalobe screw (not in the patent) show those 5 circular regions joining at an obtuse angle, not a sharp corner. That is strange. I don't own any apple products with pentalobe screws so I don't know exactly how they look like. However, some quick image searching shows both types used by apple. Their macbook air has pentalobes with sharp corners, and their iphones use obtuse angles. Does the screw not scale uniformly with size?

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I wonder if this could be related to manufacturing limits.

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Anthony Kouttron will be eternally grateful.
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