Applicability to UK?
In the UK you may register a design (it's not considered a patent) these are the rules...
For its registration to be valid, a design must:
* be new
* have individual character.
A design is considered to be 'new' if no identical (or very similar) design has been published or publicly disclosed in the UK or the European Economic Area (EEA). For example, a design would not be considered new if it had been 'published' on an Internet website viewable in the EEA before the date it was filed. However, you can apply to register a design in the UK up to 12 months after the designer first discloses it.
The term 'identical' covers designs whose features differ only in 'immaterial details'.
Individual character means that the appearance of the design (known as the overall impression) is different from the appearance of other already known designs.
This is assessed from the view of the "informed user", a person who is familiar with the kind of product in question, and the amount of design freedom will be taken into account.
You may not be able to register your design if:
* It is not a design by legal definition as described above
* It is offensive
* It consists of, or includes, certain protected flags and international emblems
* It is solely dictated by the product's technical function
(source : http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/design/d-about/d-whatis.htm)
In the UK I think Apple's 'patent' fails on almost every count plus the attempt to patent this is offensive. However I do encourage them to try, It will be amusing to see them humiliated in the press and their own web site again.