Nearly nine years after filing for a patent on the Dock in OS X, it's finally been awarded to Apple. Steve Jobs is listed as one of its three inventors. Besides the general idea of a userbar with "a plurality of item representations" that consolidates features like "launching and managing running applications," the patent focuses particularly on the Dock's magnification feature that makes icons bigger as you sweep by them with a cursor.
What this means for other dock programs, like Stardock, is unclear. Though Apple can be quite aggressive with its patents, it's uncertain whether Apple would even bother going after generic dock programs. Either way, Apple is no doubt happy to have this one in their pocket after a long, long wait. [USPTO via Slashdot]