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Apple awarded patent for multitouch interfaces

Apple has been awarded a patent which is broad enough to put anyone else using touch-screen technology into a bit of a panic.

The patent, which was originally applied for in relation to the iPhone in 2007, basically gives Apple ownership of the multi-touch GUI pioneered in the original iPhone and copied by everyone else since.

It's all-encompassing enough to include any device which changes the content of a page when touched with one finger, and behaves in a different way when touched with two, which will be a massive blow for Samsung, HTC and any of a dozen other smartphone makers who followed Apple's lead.

It could also throw a spanner in the works for every one of the 100 or so iPad wannabes currently queuing up to give Apple's prodable PC a run for its money.

Apple is fiercely protective of its intellectual property and the patent award is likely to see many of the Mac maker's competitors having to cough up stiff licensing fees if they want to continue to use capacitive touch-screens in their devices.

"This patent covers a kind of functionality without which it will be hard to build a competitive smartphone," Florian Mueller, from FOSS Patents told PC Mag. "Unless this patent becomes invalidated, it would allow Apple to stifle innovation and bully competitors."

Such patents have, in the past, been scrapped because they are too generic to be enforced in any meaningful way, but you can bet Apple will give it a punt.