Is Apple Going to Sue Palm Over Multi-Touch?

By  |  Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Palm PreI don’t want to start any wild, unfounded rumors, but I just got off Apple’s conference call on its quarterly financial results, and towards the end of the call Apple COO Tim Cook started getting very protective of Apple’s intellectual property in the form of iPhone related patents. In answer to a question about iPhone competitors, he had the following to say:

“We’re very, very comfortable with where we are competitively…we like competition, as long as they don’t rip off our [intellectual property]…and if they do, we’ll go after them.”

The questioner then brought up Palm’s upcoming Pre phone and its sophisticated multi-touch interface specifically. In response, Cook said:

“I don’t want to talk about any one company…but we will not stand for having our IP ripped off and will use whatever weapons are at our disposal. I don’t know how much clearer I could be than that.”

Okay, what should we make of that? Cook didn’t say that Apple’s about to sue Palm or any other company that makes an iPhone-like phone, but he surely unloaded a warning shot across the bow of any company that would make a phone that was too iPhone-like. And while he didn’t mention multi-touch specifically, Apple has a bunch of multi-touch patents that it surely filed to help keep the iPhone unique. Here’s a nifty drawing from a patent filed in 2006–love that antenna and the fact that the phone appears to be five times as big as its user’s hand!–which I didn’t include in my recent Apple-patent extravaganza:

Apple Multi-Touch Patent

Who else has a multi-touch phone? T-Mobile’s Android-based G1 doesn’t have multi-touch; RIM’s BlackBerry Storm does, although not in particularly iPhone-like form. All evidence suggests that the Pre will sport the most compelling touch-based interface alternative to the iPhone when it shows up (before mid-year in theory).

While the Pre has certain iPhone-esque characteristics, I’m more struck by the many things that are wildly imaginative about its interface; I’d hate to see attacked in court as an iPhone knockoff. Palm has presumably done its best to steer clear of Apple patents all along. So if Tim Cook’s comments this afternoon had a subtext, I hope that it wasn’t “We believe the Palm Pre violates our patents, and we’re not going to let that happen.”

 
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5 Comments For This Post

  1. Glenn Fleishman Says:

    Yes, I was wondering why Cook stated this so strongly. Of course, Palm is headed by an ex-Apple hardware exec, who I would assume is being scrupulous in keeping his hands clean from anything he knew before leaving Apple. He was at Apple through iPhone development, but not release.

  2. Dave Zatz Says:

    Well, Apple’s certainly not going to sue Palm for cut & paste or multitasking. ;)

  3. mini Says:

    “Well, Apple’s certainly not going to sue Palm for cut & paste or multitasking. ;)”

    Wouldn’t surprise me if Apple has patents for those things in its portfolio of Newton patents. The Newton was multi-tasking ;)

  4. Brooklyn Evans Says:

    Most countries in the third world never respects intellectual property rights. piracy is so rampant in asian countries.,`~

  5. Fabian Phoun Says:

    Way cool, some legitimate points! I take pleasure in you making this write-up available, the rest of the site is also high quality. Possess a fun.

13 Trackbacks For This Post

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    [...] for anyone else to do multi-touch without asking for a lawsuit. But Apple COO Tim Cook’s insistence last week that Apple will use all available means to protect its intellectual property, combined with the news about this patent, has me worried. As, presumably, they were designed to [...]

  2. Mobile iChat Video for the iPhone Cometh… Again? — iPhone Tricks, Tips and Hacks Says:

    [...] Is Apple Going to Sue Palm Over Multi-Touch? (technologizer.com) [...]

  3. FT.com | Tech Blog | techfile 18.6.09 Says:

    [...] Meanwhile, Apple’s ongoing irritation with its rival, the Palm Pre, continues. It has already made thinly veiled threats about the Palm device’s similar use of a multi-touch screen. Now, it is warning that newer [...]

  4. techfile 18.6.09 | Tech-monkey.info Blogs Says:

    [...] Meanwhile, Apple’s ongoing irritation with its rival, the Palm Pre, continues. It has already made thinly veiled threats about the Palm device’s similar use of a multi-touch screen. Now, it is warning that newer [...]

  5. TheTechnologySources.com » Blog Archive » techfile 18.6.09 Says:

    [...] Meanwhile, Apple’s ongoing irritation with its rival, the Palm Pre, continues. It has already made thinly veiled threats about the Palm device’s similar use of a multi-touch screen. Now, it is warning that newer [...]

  6. Apple facing another lawsuit over iPhone | Going Cellular Says:

    [...] for visiting!Apple takes the defense of its intellectual property seriously. That’s what COO Tim Cook said at the company’s quarterly earnings conference back in January. The story then was the Palm [...]

  7. Apple Sues Nokia. Who’s Next? | Technologizer Says:

    [...] this year, there was much speculation on the Web about the possibility of Apple suing Palm over the Pre’s use of an iPhone-like multi-touch interface. So far, the two companies have stayed out of court. But Apple has now responded to last [...]

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  10. for-what-theyre-worth-some-apple-phone-patent-fi « eonly.us Says:

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  12. did-apple-just-corner-the-market-on-multi-touch- « eonly.us Says:

    [...] for anyone else to do multi-touch without asking for a lawsuit. But Apple COO Tim Cook’s insistence last week that Apple will use all available means to protect its intellectual property, combined with the news about this patent, has me worried. As, presumably, they were designed to [...]

  13. palm-responds-to-apple-iphone-patent-warnings « eonly.us Says:

    [...] Apple COO Tim Cook seemed to throw a brushback pitch at Palm’s upcoming Pre phone by talking about how vigorously Apple would defend its intellectual property immediately after a financ…. Which left lots of folks with the impression that he might be suggesting that the Pre violated [...]