The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in its infinite wisdom has granted Apple another sweeping set of smartphone patents, the likes of which probably haven't been seen since the great multitouch patent grant of ought 9. They relate the iPhone's interface and the way it displays lists and documents on a mobile device. According to Wired, covering a report by Patently Apple:
It may sound snoozy, but the patent — which covers graphical user interfaces ranging from email to Camera Roll to menu lists to the multi-touch interface in general — looks like a dangerous weapon for Apple as it battles Android handset makers.
The Verge reports:
[The grant includes] another scrolling patent — US patent no. 8,223,134 to be exact. The '134 patent claims priority back to 2007 and includes pretty broad coverage on a disappearing vertical scroll bar on portable touch screen devices.
Apple's battles with Samsung, Motorola, and HTC have had their ups and downs over the last few years, with wins, loses, injunctions, overturned injunctions, and a lot of general discontent on the part of consumers buying -- or trying to buy -- from all involved.
Apple's late co-founder, Steve Jobs, was on record as saying he considered Android stolen property, promiscuously disseminated, and that he was ready to spend Apple's last dollar going "thermonuclear" on the parties responsible. Tim Cook recently said Apple couldn't be the inventor for the world, and they wanted competitors to compete with their own ideas.
Some have accused Apple of fearing the growth of Android, and being unable to keep up with Google and ODM's pace of innovation. However, Apple maintains an incredible profit-share lead over Android manufacturers, the majority of whom barely break even, if that. Some have pointed to iOS 6 as a sign of Apple slowing down in the software space, though a comparison with Android 4.1 shows a decidedly different focus. In terms of hardware, the iPhone routinely pushes the limits of technology, and stays relevant on the market for years. iPhone 5 will likely prove no exception.
Apple continues to innovate as well as litigate, and for good or ill the USPTO has just granted them a powerful new weapon to wield in the latter.
Should they have been granted? Should Apple use them in patent suits? Is their use justified given Apple's history, and Google's? No doubt we'll argue all of that and more in the comments below, but for right now, they have been, they will be, and Apple almost certainly believes feels they are.