Apple has been granted a patent relating to the capacitive touchscreen it introduced on the original iPhone after three years of deliberation.

The patent basically gives Apple rights over the multitouch display and gestures used on its iPhone, iPad and iPod products.

That means that manufacturers of rival touchscreen products should probably put their lawyers on speed dial, as Apple is likely to come after them for licensing fees or pursue them on the basis of copyright infringement.

Patent bullying

Patent commenter and IP law blogger Florian Mueller said, "This patent covers a kind of functionality without which it will be hard to build a competitive smartphone.

"Unless this patent becomes invalidated, it would allow Apple to stifle innovation and bully competitors."

The ruling could also mean the end of pinch-to-zoom web browsing on any handset but an iDevice, as the patent specifically covers smartphones using finger gestures to manipulate a web page.

But it's not all rain clouds and thunderbolts for Apple's competitors – they could be safe unless they've copied the interface entirely, every finger gesture and all.

Mueller explains, "The way to read a patent claim is that it's only infringed if the accused technology is implemented in its entirety—all of the characteristics must be matched."

What will Apple do with its new found power? Let's hope it uses it for good and not to stifle competition in the smartphone sector.

Via PCMag