We're going to try and avoid the hysterics: patents are a complicated business, and the fact that they're business
usually means that in the worst case scenario, an appropriate amount of money can make problems like this go away -- nobody's going to take our phones away from us. Still, in what we have to chalk up to regular United States Patent and Trademark Office
hijinks, or perhaps just a very forward-looking innovator, Durham Logistics (some secretive LLC based in Vegas) has been granted the patent to pretty much any use of an accelerometer in any computing device ever. Its "Method and apparatus for controlling a computer system" describes basically any use of a motion detection sensor in changing the state or implementing functionality in a device, which would obviously apply to most every smartphone on the market, along with a good number of laptops that use accelerometers as free fall sensors to know when to park the hard drive. The patent was applied for back in 2006, and is based on earlier patents from 2004 and 2001 to give it some extra cred (Apple's own motion control patents, for instance, weren't filed until late 2007). Still, it's rather general, vague, and obvious, and all the examples given seem to be about scrolling, selecting icons, and swiping through pages (not popular uses from accelerometers currently) so time will tell if it will hold up in court if Durham decides to go after any one of the multi-billion dollar companies that are currently "infringing."