A patent originally filed by Apple back in 2008 has just been granted by the US Patent Office, with the tech giant somehow managing to convince the authorities it should own a patent for a method of displaying maps on a touchscreen device.
It's not the hugely apocalyptic attack on Google Maps you might expect, as the patent mostly focuses on Apple's own iOS Maps touch-based interface that used to sit atop Google's mapping data, although the concept of Apple being allowed to patent anything to do with such a basic feature as showing a map to a person on a touch display seems rather shocking.
Back in 2008, however, mobile maps weren't quite so critical. Many phones couldn't even handle mapping, and those that did offered crappy custom interfaces often controlled by things knows as "buttons". As well as covering Apple's own touch control system, this patent also mentions more complex technical issues and some we tend to associate with Google, like the concept of pins marking locations.
If Apple was to manage to force Google to dumb down its mapping tools in any way as a result of this, it would be an enormous victory for the company. And a big loss for non-Apple users around the world, too. [USPTO via Apple Insider via Gizmodo UK]