Would Apple sue Palm over Pre IP?

Acting Apple CEO Tim Cook may have just sent a thinly veiled threat Palm's way over the Pre.As most folks know, Palm made a big splash at CES with the Pre and hit a home run that may have saved the company.

Acting Apple CEO Tim Cook may have just sent a thinly veiled threat Palm's way over the Pre.

As most folks know, Palm made a big splash at CES with the Pre and hit a home run that may have saved the company. Meanwhile, Palm may be emulating the iPhone a little too much.

Following Apple's first quarter earnings, Cook was asked on a conference call about the Pre and the threat it--and other phones powered by Android--could pose. First, Cook warmed up with Apple's application store and how it stacks up with the competition.

Also see: Palm Pre: Can it trump the iPhone? Will it matter?

Cook said:

It's difficult to judge products that are not yet in the market. But the iPhone has sold over 17 million units thus far. It's received the highest overall customer satisfaction

of products from many different surveys. And, we've said since the beginning software is the key ingredient and we believe that we're still years ahead on software. And I would include in that software umbrella, the Applications Store, and you can see the explosion that has happened in applications with over half a billion downloads.

If you look at others, I think when you think about having multiple variations of displays, multiple variations of resolutions and input methods, and many different forms of hardware, it's a big challenge to a software developer and is not very enticing for them to build a different App for every one of these things. But, we shall see what people will do.

We approach this business as a software platform business, and so I think we approach it fundamentally different than people that are approaching it only from a hardware point of view. And so, as I've said before, we're very, very confident with where we are competitively. We are watching the landscape. We like competition. As long as they don't rip off our IP and if they do we're going to go after anybody that does.

Memo to rivals: Don't look too iPhoney.

But Cook saved the best volley for last. Here's Cook's exchange with an analyst:

Mike Abramsky - RBC Capital Markets

Because, it seems until Palm came out, many of the other players had in fact negotiated carefully around your multi-touch IP; whereas, the Palm device particularly seems to almost directly emulate the kind of touch interfaces that you had innovated and that Steve, when he launched the phone, talked about patented. Is that to what you're referring with regarding to ripping off IP?

Tim Cook

I don't want to talk about any specific company. I'm just making a general statement that we think competition is good. It makes us all better. And we are ready to suit up and go against anyone. However, we will not stand for having our IP ripped off, and we'll use whatever weapons that we have at our disposal. I don't know that I can be clearer than that.

Now it's way too early to say that Apple is going to sue the snot out of Palm over the Pre (all resources). However, an Apple lawsuit would surprise no one. And guess who doesn't have the assets to spend a lot of money in court? Yup. That's Palm. I'd say the odds are pretty good that there is going to be an Apple-Palm IP skirmish in the future. Cook didn't exactly drop those comments in passing.

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