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Apple patents using apps during phone calls

Apple is getting a lot of early Christmas presents this year in the form of good news on the patent front. Earlier this week Apple won a patent battle against HTC -- however, it appears that HTC has already made changes to the phones in question to get them out of a ban on sales in the US. Now Apple has received a broad patent that covers the ability to switch to an app while maintaining a phone call.

CBS reports that Apple received US Patent 8,082,523 "Portable electronic device with graphical user interface supporting application switching" that includes a "vital independent claim" that is surprisingly broad in scope. The patent covers the steps taken to look at another app while on a phone call, and then extends this concept in a number of different ways. CBS blogger Erik Sherman notes that the Apple lawyers made the description of the steps "just broad enough ... to make it clumsy for a competitor to work around."

Sherman points out that it isn't impossible for a competing Android phone to offer an equivalent feature, but that the patent makes it necessary for the competition to implement the feature in a very "clumsy, inelegant, or cumbersome" way. Forcing competitors into a clumsy way of doing things makes the iPhone and iPad more desirable.

The end result of Apple's war chest of broad patents, according to Sherman, will be that other manufacturers may be forced eventually to focus on lower margin products, leaving the profitable products ripe for the picking by Apple.