Here is a link to a pdf of Apple's patent: http://www.freepatentsonline.com/7966578.pdf
The prior art references are surprisingly few. Maybe there is some prior art that was not considered, as some have vaguely alleged here. It is important to understand that this is not a software patent or a process unrelated to a physical device (e.g. business method). Such disembodied ideas have been excluded from patentable subject matter by the Bilski case. Those who allege that the US Patent Office "gave up on examining patents for validity" or that "patents destroy innovation and competition" are probably complaining based on the bad history of software and business method patents.
Now that Apple has shown the solution to the problem it seems obvious in retrospect, like all great inventions. If a stylus works, why isn't a combination of non-intuitive finger gestures just the same function done in an obvious new way? I suppose that the patent examiner considered such arguments before allowing Apple's claims. Let those who would disparage Apple's achievement actually read the patent and cite some directly relevant prior art other than the general idea of a GUI that uses finger gestures on a touch screen. I think the US Patent Office and Apple deserve more respect than is evident so far in the comments. Griping tweets add nothing to the discussion.
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