When Steve Jobs first announced the iPhone a little over a year ago, he played up
the fact that Apple had filed approximately 200 patents on some of the technologies included in the phone. This seemed a bit surprising because so many of the technologies found in the iPhone were already found
elsewhere -- just not in as pretty a package. Also, despite all those patent claims, it hasn't stopped a whole bunch of companies from filing patent infringement lawsuits
against Apple for technologies found in the iPhone. As we've pointed out, playing up the patents seemed rather pointless. Apple was going to sell a ton of iPhones no matter what, and even if others copied the basic technology, it's unlikely they would be able to get anywhere near the attention the iPhone would get (nor the sales). We've already seen that with the iPod. Despite competitors coming up with technology that some consider to be better, the marketing and positioning of the iPod keeps it on top of the market (by a large margin).
Wired is now pointing out another potential downside to Apple's patent claims. Despite there being a ton of work by others done on the concept of the "multi-touch interface," Apple's patents on the concept may force everyone else who uses multi-touch to come up with different multi-touch commands
. In other words, rather than there being a common set of multi-touch commands, which would help widen the overall market, the patents may fragment the market, forcing everyone to learn a different set of multi-touch commands based on which device they're using. That's progress?