Apple's acting CEO Tim Cook, who is currently holding down the fort while Steve Jobs deals with his health problems, has said that "[Apple] will not stand for having [its] IP ripped off, and [they'll] use whatever weapons that [they] have at our disposal."
The patent that Apple holds covers "touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics." It's that heuristics part that could be troublesome for other companies. The gesture of pinching to zoom could be covered under this patent.
Click through for more on this potential issue.
Furthermore, if the rumored PSP2 includes a multi-touch screen, Sony could run into problems and possibly be forced to license the technology from Apple if they want to proceed down that route. Of course, this is all speculation at this point, but this could be a big issue going forward as more and more companies attempt to put out products that capitalize on the iPhone touchscreen craze.
Many times patents kind of overarch and probably have too large of a scope, but the touchscreen on the Apple iPhone is definitely patent worthy. I don't know if I agree with Apple to patent actual gestures, but I think they probably have a case with the actual technology that makes the touchscreen function.
If you haven't used an iPhone or iPod Touch you haven't yet used a good touchscreen device. It is the best implementation of a touchscreen by a long shot.
We'll be bringing you more on this story as it develops. Do you think Apple's patent should prevent Palm and Sony from developing their own technology for multi-touch?