Wired reports that Apple has filed around 200 patent applications related to multitouch and gesture control:
Yet it appears that the company is not trying to patent the entire multitouch concept, but rather trying to protect certain uses of it — specifically the methods to interpret gestures, and in some cases, the gestures themselves.
It is interesting to see that they mention the interpretation of a gesture. This means that they separate between gesture and action, i.e. gesture is the meaning of an action.