Proving that it's not only Apple and Samsung that have the monopoly on patenting (and counter-patenting), Microsoft just bagged a beauty they are calling the variable formatting of cells. This covers the "variable formatting for cells in computer spreadsheets, tables, and other documents, such as using the spectrum from a first color to a second color to represent the values in or associated with each cell". Now you can call it what you want but to me and many others this sounds remarkably like a technique that map-makers have been using for decades. We call it a choropleth (not to be confused with a chloropleth). Baron Pierre Charles Dupin is widely recognised as creating the first of its type and the term itself was introduced by geographer John Wright in 1938. Slashdot has some fun comments on the topic.
Let's not forget it wasn't long ago that Apple themselves filed for a patent for "schematic maps". Soon all map types will be taken and there will be nothing left for us mere mortals to draw.
Before anyone bothers, please note I have filed for the concepts and practical creation of "crap maps", "shit maps", "sub-par maps" and "chloropleths" (preferably those made with totals and using random colours). That means you're not allowed to make one unless you ask me or pay me...that seems the best way to improve mapping don't you think? :-)