Google's home page is very well known around the Internet, because it's simple, clean, and easy to understand. It may not seem as though much work has gone into it, but that doesn't mean it's any less effective; apparently, it's such an icon that Google has now managed to patent it, preventing others from using the layout. According to Valleywag, the patent was submitted a hefty 5 and a half years ago, back in early 2004, and it has taken this long for it to be approved.
The patent, described as a "graphical user interface for a display screen of a communications terminal," was approved just yesterday, meaning that Google now owns the idea of having a search box in the middle of the page, with two buttons underneath (including surrounding text, naturally). The patent document depicts the simple box-and-two-button arrangement, as well as the Google logo (with a dashed outline to show that it's not an essential part of the submission), meaning that it could potentially land some competitors in a bit of trouble. It's unclear as to whether or not Google will take action on those that could potentially be accused of unlawfully using the design, but many people suspect that it'll mainly be useful in warding away start-up companies from using Google's idea.
At the same time that the patent was submitted, Google also submitted a separate one for their search engine results. There was much more luck with this one, as it was approved towards the end of 2006. Google's homepage has changed slightly since the patent was originally submitted, but the company is apparently confident enough that it's good enough to cover it.
There's an image of the patent included below, courtesy of Valleywag, and the original patent can be found here.