Two years before the first iPhone, Apple applied for a patent that has become one of the staple gestures of the iOS platform. I recall when we first received the original iPhone at the Apple Store (where I was the Lead Specialist). We unboxed and powered-on a demo unit and the first thing we did was swipe through the preloaded iTunes playlist, amazed by Apple's new mobile operating system.
It is that gesture, the basic swipe-to-scroll motion that is one of the true signatures of Apple's iOS platform, that has been approved by the United States Patent and Trademark Office according to Patently Apple.
The patent (7,786,975) states that this specific motion is covered on a variety of devices or combinations thereof, including "a handheld computer, a tablet computer, a personal digital assistant, or a cellular telephone."
The abstract filed by Apple states:
"Movement of a point of contact by a user of a touch-sensitive display is determined. In response to the movement, a list of items on the touch-sensitive display is scrolled through. The scroll through is accelerated in response to an accelerated movement of the point of contact. The scroll through and acceleration of the scroll through may be in accordance with a simulation of a physical device having friction."
The importance of this patent grant reaches far beyond Apple's own products. Often a target of tech-related patent lawsuits (many of which are completely ridiculous), Apple's win on this patent gives it a powerful counter-sue threat when facing bogus litigation.