“It works like magic … and boy, have we patented it” The government paperwork behind the iPhone

A quick tour of Apple’s collection of official patents

Written by Beryl Lipton
Edited by JPat Brown

It’s been a whole decade since Apple first unleashed the iPhone upon the world, drastically altering the way people around the planet spend their time. As Steve Jobs excitedly explained to a crowd at MacWorld over 10 years ago, the device collapsed a music player, a phone, and an internet browser into one sleek package controlled by - gasp - a multi-touch user interface.

“Nobody wants a stylus … We’re gonna touch this with our fingers. And we have invented a new technology called multi-touch, which is phenomenal. It works like magic … and boy, have we patented it.”

Patents, designed to keep exclusive for a time the ideas and intellectual property of inventive individuals, are an important protection for technology companies like Apple. According to the U.S Patent and Trademark Office, the company currently has over 13,000 of them, covering everything from glove touch detection….

to the way cell signal networks are prioritized …

to the display a product sits on

…as well as a 3-D mapper

and, yes, even a stylus.

It can take years for an idea to go from an application to an accepted published patent and last a specific period of time before they may be renewed or left to expire, allowing further development on leaps made by private entrepreneurs.

Have a few favorite patents from Apple or others? Take a dive into the USPTO database of materials via the button below, and let us know what you find! .


Image via UPTO.gov