A design patent, to be exact, meaning: You can't make a brazen copy of the iPhone and iPod Touch's "ornamental design," or else you'll get sued to death. Of course, this isn't just about crude knockoffs.
The hardware design patent, which includes illustrations and descriptions of what are clearly first-gen iPhone and iPod Touch devices (they look so quaint now!), could conceivably be wielded widely, against pretty much anyone that's veered just a little too close to Apple's industrial design. As for how close it too close, that'll be Apple's call, then a court's. But I'm guess anywhere close is too close. Taiwan, I'm guessing, is too close.
Apple's always had a leg to stand on against straight-up knockoff artists, and the patent contains references to a bunch of blog posts about garbagey street gear plastered with Apple logos, but this also gives them a little more strength—or at least the image of strength—against larger companies that Apple wants to take on in court. [MacStories via Engadget]