When considering the bitter rivalries that have emerged in the smartphone industry between Apple and its competitors (Samsung, Google, HTC, Nokia), one needs only to review the patent portfolio of each company to see from where it all stems.
To argue that the patent system is broken is another article for another day, but with Apple receiving the grant from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for document translation, rotation, and scaling, it is safe to assume that the intellectual property battles will only heighten.
Sure, in 2007, just as the iPhone was released, Apple had to teach the general public about things like pinching and pushing in order to zoom in on documents presented on its touch-screen phone.
But now, after five generations of iPhones (and any number of competing smartphones), there most likely are not many smartphone owners that do not understand the process.
Also included in this patent win for Apple is the process for scrolling through lists on a touch-screen device. Again, another process we are all familiar with -- even to the point of wondering, "how could Apple patent this, isn't it obvious?"
To answer that question gets back to the patent system in general (which would certainly include a heated debate). The short answer is that, whether or not there were devices before that could do the same thing, in the eyes of the USPTO, Apple's patent application described a viable innovation.
So now, Android, Windows Mobile, and any other touch-based operating system for mobile devices have to seriously consider how they handle their relationship with Apple. Can Samsung continue to sue and countersue? Can Google afford to step on Apple's toes?
Apple has been, at the very least, defensive with its patents in general, though recently the legal gang in Cupertino seems to be getting a little more proactive -- especially with its closest rivals.
Are we likely to see Apple go on the attack with its new patent wins? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!