Via Farhad Manjoo at Slate, a fine example of patent scrutiny by sleepwalking.
Honeywell was issued US patent 7,159,789 for a dial on a thermostat:
A thermostat having a thermostat housing and a rotatable selector disposed on the thermostat housing. The rotatable selector adapted to have a range of rotatable positions, where a desired parameter value is identified by the position of the rotatable selector along the range of rotatable positions. The rotatable selector rotates about a rotation axis….
I think I’ll apply for a patent on a timekeeping device with a circular housing with 12 large and 60 small equidistant markings and two moving indicators (“arms”) mounted on concentric rotating shafts.
Wells Cathedral clock, ca. 1390