Apple has won a US patent for touch-screen controls and gained a potential legal weapon against iPhone competitors.
US Patent 7,479,949 is awarded to "(Steve) Jobs et al" for a method of "detecting one or more finger contacts with the touch screen display" to command computing devices.
A multi-page patent available online at the US Patent and Trade Office on Monday details iPhone or iPod Touch commands such as finger or thumb swiping, twisting, or spreading to flip pages, rotate views, or enlarge images.
The patent was issued last week, a day before Apple on January 21 announced record-high quarterly profits.
Word of the patent provides ominous context for a warning made by Apple chief operating officer Tim Cook during a conference call that followed release the California firm's earnings report.
Cook said he believes iPhones are "years ahead of the competition" and that they are vigilantly watching to make certain rivals don't usurp Apple's intellectual property.
"We think competition is good," Cook said. "We are ready to suit up and go against anyone. However, we will not stand for having our IP ripped off and will use whatever weapons at our disposal."
While not mentioning a specific competitor, Cook made his comment in reply to a question related to a new Palm Pre touch-screen mobile telephone unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show this month to stellar reviews.