Apple has been awarded a crucial patent regarding touchscreens, one it first applied for way back in 2007.

Following Apple patent applications is both a laborious and tedious affair. Hardly a day goes past without the web buzzing about yet another Cupertino application that's been uncovered. And whilst most of the patent requests come to nothing, every so often one is awarded that makes the entire tech industry sit up and take notice - and this is definitely one of them.

As most patents are, the details of the 2007 application are highly technical, but PC Mag quotes Florian Mueller, an award-winning intellectual property activist, who sums up the decision nicely:

"This patent covers a kind of functionality without which it will be hard to build a competitive smartphone," he said. "Unless this patent becomes invalidated, it would allow Apple to stifle innovation and bully competitors."

The problem for rival manufacturers is that Apple seems to detail specific motions, such as pinch-to-zoom, when it comes to web browsing.

"This patent covers smartphones that allow a user to manipulate the display of a web page with finger gestures using different fingers and/or combinations of fingers, so it appears broad enough to cover all modern touchscreen smartphones because they all allow you to use one finger to move the web page left or right, and a combination of two fingers to zoom in and zoom out of the web page," said another PC Mag source.

Chances are, this wouldn't mean an end to multi-touch gestures on non Apple devices - rather that a licensing agreement with the tech giant would be needed. 

However, This is my Next has looked into the patent and concluded that it may not be as serious for Apple's rivals as is being reported. It says that the patent is "pretty narrow" and that Google, Microsoft and co won't find it too difficult to navigate around.

Its report does admit that "it's certainly yet another arrow in Apple’s quiver of patents" though - so we could indeed be looking at yet more money for Apple's already heaving bank balance.