Apple computers has sucessfully patented the multi-touch technology it uses on the iPhone and iPod Touch displays as of January 20th, 2009. Having a patent on multi-touch and their aggressive pursuit of trademarking the term, "Multi-Touch" means that other competitors will be severely restricted on the use of this technology unless Apple is willing to license it to them which may prove to be unlikely.
With Palm's Pre nearing its launch on Sprint's network later this year, the question comes to mind how this device will be affected by Apple's new patent. One of the Pre's notable features is its multi-touch LCD screen that uses a pinch gesture to zoom in or out which is similar if not identical to the iPhone. Palm may be forced to review its technology presented in the Pre to make sure it does not violate the patent Apple now holds and even change any reference to "multi-touch" to another name if indeed Apple secures its trademark of that term.
One of the blessings of the tech industry is that there are many ways to create similar technologies without infringing on patents and getting sued out of existence. Certainly AMD has employed that strategy for years with its microprocessors. With the popularity of capacitive touch screens like those on the iPhone, hopefully we will see similar offerings on other devices with advanced gestures capabilities that will benefit consumers by improving technolgy and keeping the competitive spirit alive.