At yesterdays earnings conference call, Tim Cook made some revealing statements that some are interpreting as thinly veiled threats against Palm. In response to a question about iPhone competitors, Cook noted that Apple welcomes competition in the smartphone market, but that it won’t sit idly by and have its intellectual property ripped off.
We like competition, as long as they don’t rip off our [intellectual property], and if they do, we’re going to go after anyone who does.
Though Cook didn’t mention any company specifically by name, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that he was referring to the not-yet-released Palm Pre, which unlike other smartphones like the Storm or G1, uses the same multitouch technology that Apple uses in the iPhone. Cook went on to state that Apple would vigorously defend its IP using “whatever weapons we have at our disposal.”
Interestingly, Reuters is reporting that Palm shares took a tumble today on fears that the upcoming Pre might soon be facing a legal challenge from Apple. Palm, though, has invested a considerable amount of resources into the Pre, and many have suggested that the future of Palm as a company depends on the success of the Palm Pre. That said, don’t expect Palm to back down should Apple indeed decide to litigate. Palm spokeswoman Lynn Fox wrote in an email today that “”Palm has been building its own intellectual property portfolio for 15 years, and we will defend it vigorously, if necessary.”
It’s important to point out that Apple does not hold patents to multitouch technology in the broadest sense as the technology has a history that goes back over 20 years. It does, however, have pending patents that relate to certain functions that one can do with a multitouch device such as pinching a picture to zoom in or out.
Adding more drama to the story is the fact that Jon Rubenstein, who oversaw development of the Palm Pre, is a former Apple executive who was a key member on the team that developed the iPod and a host of other Apple products.