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Granted, I don't think these have been used offensively, but here are two patents that they benefit greatly from.

Menu bar - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menu_bar#Ease_of_use

iPod click wheel - http://www.ilounge.com/index.php/news/comments/apple-receive...

I have no doubt that they would protect these if other companies infringed upon them. They offer significant usability advantages that Apple doesn't want others to have.

What we're seeing now is a bit different. The market is moving so quickly now that Apple is trying to setup some boundaries that they don't want others to touch. I don't think they really had to do this with these examples. I'm not saying any of this is right, I'm just not all that surprised by it happening.

The cited reference in the menu bar link is a design patent, which is very different from a regular patent. Anyone can implement a menu-bar system that lives at the top of the screen--it just can't look exactly like Apple's.

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