The patent, submitted for approval to the US. Patent Office in late 2006, details a capacitive touchscreen sensor on a clamshell design. There's a transparent touch panel that covers the top of the shell, and when it's opened, the inside of the panel is touch as well. Basically, it appears that Apple is enabling as many parts of the physically exposed material to be touch sensitive. This would then allow the company to expand its UI and OS capabilities to come up with interesting features we didn't know we needed.
As long as the clamshell, double-paneled displays aren’t much smaller than the current model’s screens, people will likely see the second screen as a big plus. It also shouldn't be any thicker than the current model when the clamshell is closed.
Among the patent's main features is the ability to write-in numbers or letters with your finger. (We already saw part of this technology in a private demo many months ago, and Apple’s application to the tech could be impressive.) Something else we could see is a digital representation of the old rotary phone, by dragging a number down, as if spinning the old dialer.
By having touch displays on both sides of a panel, there's also the possibility of ‘enabling 3-D gestures’ through touch and of watching two different videos at the same time. So why do we care about little drawings of gadgets that may be completely different when released? Because most patents are both specific and oddly open-ended, allowing a small glimpse at true innovation while leaving you scratching your head a little bit.
Patented intellectual property rights provide the inventor, be it a multinational company or a single desperate man, with the opportunity to plant a flag in a space of innovation that is unique. But they also allow for a hell of a lot of mind-bending interpretation. This is especially true when the end product keeps a good amount of the patented technology but looks completely different.