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Apple plans to protect its iPhone against all contenders.

Palm's new Pre multitouch smart phone -- does the Pre infringe on Apple's patents, and rip off the iPhone's looks? You decide.  (Source: ZDNet)
Apple infers Palm's Pre phone may infringe on its IP, Palm says its not afraid of a fight

Apple created a fuss when Apple's Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook gave some pointed comments directed towards Palm.  The exchange took place during Apple’s recent earnings call.  During the Q&A, one of the reporters asks, "There are other iPhone competitors coming to the market: Android, Palm Pre. How do you think about sustaining leadership in the face of these competitors?"

That's when things went south.  COO Cook responded, "It's difficult to compare to products that are not yet in the market. IPhone has seen terrific rating from customers. Software is the key ingredient, and we believe that we are years ahead of our competitors. Having different screen sizes, different input methods, and different hardware makes things difficult for developers. We view iPhone as primarily a software platform, which is different from our competitors. We don't mind competition, but if others rip off our intellectual property, we will go after them."

Smartly picking up on recent talk of the similarity between Palm's upcoming "Pre" phone and the iPhone's interface, the reporter responds, "The Palm device seems to directly emulate the iPhone's innovative interface. Is that what you're referring to?"

Mr. Cook responds with a veiled threat, stating, "We don't want to refer to any specific companies, so that was a general statement. We like competition because it makes us better, but we will not stand for companies infringing on our IP."

If it weren't for the issues surrounding Palm's new phone, perhaps the comments could be considered ambiguous.  However, Palm's new phone features a multi-touch interface eerily similar to the iPhone's, the first smart phone outside the iPhone to implement this.  Further, it's developed by Jon Rubinstein, formerly Apple's head hardware engineer, who surely had intimate knowledge of the iPhone's inner workings.  He is not alone -- Palm's ranks are populated with ex-Apple engineers.

Well, perhaps the issue might have been settled or simply moved forward to less talk and more legal action, but Palm decided to take a jab back at Apple.  Palm spokesperson Lynn Fox basically tells Apple to “bring it” in a recent comment to the blog All Things Digital.  She states, "Palm has a long history of innovation that is reflected in our products and robust patent portfolio (31 pages of patents in Google Patent Search), and we have long been recognized for our fundamental patents in the mobile space.  If faced with legal action, we are confident that we have the tools necessary to defend ourselves."

Based on Apple's comments, many in the blogosphere are hinting that legal action from Apple seems inevitable when Palm pushes ahead with its new smartphone.  With a history of aggressive litigation, Apple seems unlikely to fail to back its threats. 

And with Palm's hopes of a turnaround riding on its new phone, it's not about to give up without a fight.  Thus the battle for the smart phone, and perhaps total phone sales crown may not be waged by the consumers this year, but in the courts.

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I'm just going to go out on a limb here...
By Motoman on 1/23/2009 9:35:07 AM , Rating: 5
...and surmise that Palm is smart enough to have looked into possible patent infringements before designing and marketing their product.

...I'm also going to surmise that Apple is probably protesting too much at this point...the Pre isn't even on the market yet, and they're thinly veiling lawsuit threats. The thing may be a total flop, and therefore irrelevant one way or the other...I would suggest that by getting all blustery about it, Apple is probably just fanning whatever fire the Pre has under it - undermining their own goals.

By bighairycamel on 1/23/2009 9:53:43 AM , Rating: 5
I don't get it. I haven't looked up what kind of design patents Apple holds, but how many ways do they expect you can put a touchscreen into a phone? Of course they're going to look the same, it's a rectangular piece of aluminum with a glass pane in the middle.

RE: I'm just going to go out on a limb here...
By Ticholo on 1/23/2009 10:24:48 AM , Rating: 5
I have a patent on a way to drink liquids from a cylindrical container. It involves bringing the container to your lips and increasing the angle at which you hold it while letting some liquid pour into your mouth.
I demand royalties!!! I'll sue anyone that infringes on my IP!

By Gzus666 on 1/23/2009 10:33:25 AM , Rating: 4
Steve Jobs, is that you?

RE: I'm just going to go out on a limb here...
By 67STANG on 1/23/2009 1:35:59 PM , Rating: 4
I thought I had time to register the iDrink. That's what I get for procrastinating.

By Dreifort on 1/23/2009 4:05:53 PM , Rating: 2
what did the 5 fingers of Apple say to the procastinator?


RE: I'm just going to go out on a limb here...
By Xerstead on 1/23/2009 3:26:36 PM , Rating: 2
Palm have been using touch screens in their products for years. Apple adds a touch screen to a phone, Palm adds telephone capability to its devices and Apple have a problem with this.
Is there something else i'm missing?

By Dreifort on 1/23/2009 4:10:36 PM , Rating: 2
Palm have been using touch screens in their products for years. Apple adds a touch screen to a phone, Palm adds telephone capability to its devices and Apple have a problem with this.

missing the part where Apple execs confer with their legal team and determine they have more money and more resources to keep this lawsuit in court -- forcing Palm to settle or go bankrupt. Eitherway Apple gets richer.

By robinthakur on 1/26/2009 8:02:55 AM , Rating: 2
I would imagine it has more to do with multi-touch and its application (especially the gestures like pinching and so on) which Apple will try to protect from becoming generic functionality, rather than the simple menu structure. Apple were the first to crack the touch screen with multi touch and capacitative touch, which is literally the tech. as it should be, and unlike the touch screens which have gone before it. I think they are being bullish over the patents issue, but surely they should have ample ground to stand on over this. When I first used the iPhone many moons ago, having come to it from HTC devices, the first feeling I had was that the human/device interface precision and "intuition" was revolutionary, and this should justifiably be protected by Apple. I think however, that Palm's offering will probably crash and burn like all the rest of their recent lines. They have hardly been relevent since the Palm Pilot went out of vogue in the early 2000's

Do you remember what "Smart" phones were even like before the iPhone? The screens were mushy and unresponsive, you had to use a stylus for any precision, installing apps was hit and miss, the OS was a joke (Wimo I'm looking at you)and they all looked like bricks. Credit Apple with having the ability to spur the rest of the industry to innovate or die, if nothing else.

RE: I'm just going to go out on a limb here...
By MrTeal on 1/23/2009 11:39:37 AM , Rating: 2
This will probably work itself out the way these things normally do. Apple will sue Palm for infringing on patents A, B and C, while Palm will counter-sue for patents X, Y and Z. Lawyers will get richer, they'll sign some cross-licensing deal, and it'll be back to business as usual.

By Murloc on 1/23/2009 1:09:09 PM , Rating: 3
lawyers always win.

By Motoman on 1/23/2009 2:44:11 PM , Rating: 2
...but think of the children!

"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook
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