Apple 'Suiting up' to Sue Palm Over the Pre? | webOS Nation
 
 

Apple 'Suiting up' to Sue Palm Over the Pre? 45

by Dieter Bohn Wed, 21 Jan 2009 7:53 pm EST

Our compatriot Rene from The iPhone Blog let us know that Macworld is liveblogging Apple's Quarterly Conference call and my oh my, did the Palm Pre make them unhappy.  When asked about it in a general sense -- as a new competitor, COO Tim Cook didn't take long to get into lawsuit territory:

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.

Yowza.  We're betting that the fact that the webOS' browser sports the same pinching/zooming UI metaphors found on the iPhone rankles a bit.  Well, more than a bit, because the questioner asked for a bit more detail on that, Cook didn't exactly back down:

Don't want to talk about any specific company, just making a general statement. We are ready to suit up and go against anyone. However, we will not stand for having our IP ripped off and will use whatever weapons we have at our disposal.

Now, we're not lawyers or anything, but it seems to us that this could play out in a few ways.  Apple could, in fact, decide not to bother because Palm didn't infringe on any patents after all.  We're doubting that.  Next up -- Apple sues Palm.  What happens then?  Well, Palm's ability to shell out the cash necessary for an expensive lawsuit falls somewhere between laughable and impossible, while Apple's warchest of cash is approximately the size of the moon.  In other words, not a fight Palm is likely to win.  (In more real terms: Palm needed a $100 million cash infusion just to stay afloat, as of this writing Apple has $28 billion with a B in cash reserves).

What then?  Well, we see three more options:

  1. Palm says uncle and pulls some of their multitouch from the browser, perhaps other features as well or
  2. Palm pays Apple a licensing fee (if Apple will let them) or
  3. Palm and Apple play dueling patent lawsuits for the next few years

See, it's a common occurance for most corporations to build up a warchest of patents in lieu of a warchest of cash to pay laywers.  Motorola and RIM have been playing out just such a patent deathmatch for over a year, in fact. So Palm could say "I'll see your multitouch browser and raise you one 'cradle for synchronizing data' and another 'Handheld computer system and method to detect and identify a peripheral device,' oh, and while we're at it, we have a patent for turning off the radio via software on that there iPhone of yours.  No more airplane mode for you."

In other words, now that Palm has its Mojo back (literally!), we're betting they're not going to back down from a fight wih Apple.  From what we know of Apple, they're perfectly happy to scrap as well.  Things could get interesting, folks!

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45 Comments

Apple did not invent multitouch. Like the window metaphor, they did bring to the masses. I have no idea what patents Apple may have, but the "pinch" resize was the only one I noticed in the demo. That certainly is nothing new (Minority Report?)...

Apple got out Appled, now they are angry. Boo, hoo.

I sure hope that Palm wins if there is a lawsuit. We finally get a awesome phone coming our way and Apple has to get pissy about it.

ChodaBoy: I think apple might have bought the company that made the technology that was used in minority report. I could be wrong though.

Apple's not concerned about "their" patents as much as they are about the phone itself as a competitor. If the pre takes off, it not only takes potential iPhone customers but would require them to further open up to developers as that is looking to be Palm real selling point.

It's like Microsoft is with Windows - challenging all the little guys with dumb patent lawsuits because they have the money to suck the little guys dry.

Could any company in Palm's financial position really be stupid enough to flaunt their new product in front of their competitor if they had any inkling that they were infringing on patents? No way. I'm calling Apple's bluff on this one. :)

*sigh* stuff like this just depresses me. God forbid Apple should simple out innovate palm, something it should have the resource to do hands down, and make a better device and a better world in the process. No, instead lets all watch bloody expensive blood bath about some pieces of paper that grant limited monopoly for some thoughts that got jotted down. ugh. Dose the pre borrow from the iphone, and even improve upon it, sure. Should it matter? Fuck no, it's not relevant in healthy market.

Microsoft's Surface uses multi-touch as well - I've been wondering whether they have licensed Apple's patent or found another way around Apple's patent.

Apple risks their patent(s) getting overturned... Remember, Apple sued Microsoft for stealing their WIMP GUI interface and using it on Windows 2.0 (remember Windows, Icons, Mouse, Pointer?) - in court, their patent was eventually overturned and, once it was, the GUI truly became ubiquitous - it was no longer protected at all as even the threat of litigation was gone.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Computer,_Inc._v._Microsoft_Corp.

Of course, we *assume* that multi-touch is the lightning rod here - it could be something else.

I wonder if Apple suing Palm might end up being good advertising/publicity for Palm. As the article says, Palm has some patents of their own they could pull out and, depending on the outcome, litigation could be cheaper than a good advertising campaign (which typically run at least 100-200 million). Apple would be giving a competitor press for "equaling" them instead of just ignoring them.

I've also been wondering whether Apple behind the scenes is pulling ranks with various carriers to prevent them from carrying the Pre. For example, is AT&T not selling and subsidizing the Treo Pro because they already carry Iphone? If so, could Apple's relationship with AT&T prevent AT&T from ever carrying the Pre? As the article points out, Apple has a huge warchest and, if they wanted to spend that money to prevent a competitor getting a foothold, they could subsidize the iPhone themselves (instead of the Carrier subsizdizing it) for a time. Apple's own strategy of having exclusive carriers (in some regions) to maximize Apple's profit is hurting them now too - carriers without iPhone are eager to take on an iPhone killer/competitor and Apple has no leverage over them.

The Surface's multi-touch uses cameras placed behind the screen to recognize fingers and objects, so that shouldn't infringe on Apple's capacitive multi-touch technology. Maybe Apple has some wacky software patent on the idea of pinch-zoom, but I don't think the Surface's hardware would be a problem.

If Apple decides that they are going to be predatory with their patents, I think it's only fair that Palm smacks them up side the face as well - after all, mobile IS in Palm's DNA, and I'm sure they're sitting on a few dozen or so chestnuts that they can dig up on Apple - it would be hysterical to watch Apple try and bitch out Palm over one or two patents and then have Palm counter-sue with 30 violations.

They were fully aware of this possibility all along it seems:

I don't know anything about copyright laws or anything. But doesn't it seem like Apple is getting away with patenting things that were around way before they "invented" it?

Scroll Wheel - My dads old 1970's component stereo had a wheel that you scrolled to change radio stations and pushed in to get other functions.

Magsafe - We used to have this cool stereo when we were kids. I don't remember the brand, but I do remember a magnetic detachable power plug.

Trackpad Gestures - Firefox had a plugin I used to use where you make certain gestures to do commands. And every notebook has hotpoints and certain gestures to scroll or open apps.

Pinching/Rotating - How many movies have displayed this motion? And what about similar movements on the last decade of PDA's?

Camera in middle of screen - Their latest patent has been done on film for a century. You see futuristic shows with people webchatting and they aren't looking "slightly up" at a camera. They're looking directly into the screen (which obviously has a camera in it).



I'm not slamming Apple because I buy their products. But whenever I hear of a new Apple Patent I always wonder how they managed to trick the patent board into thinking they invented something new.

I don't know if Apple has a case here or not, but one thing is for sure here, if Apple is talking about this is that they are concerned that the Palm Pre might finally be (as much as I hate using this term) the iPhone killer. Well done Palm.

One thing that Apple and AT&T will need to remember. We are talking about the iPhone. People at Apple are probably already working on the next iPhone, if they haven't finished already. The iPhone has a huge following (not only here in the US, but overseas, as well). One thing for sure, Apple will not be holding back many of the things that people have been asking that the iPhone should have (i.e. MMS). Competition is a good thing and the people of Palm has finally giving Apple some. They shouldn't complain and bring on a lawsuit, but should embrace it and work harder to bring out something just as good or even better.

If Palm did infringe on legitimate patents belonging to Apple, then Palm deserves to get sued. In Apple, we're not talking about some bogus patent-holding company which just files patents willy-nilly for imaginary products, we're talking about a company which came up with a revolutionary product that has changed the face of the smartphone industry. To say that isn't true just ignores reality.

Now Palm wants to get a piece of the action, after years of failing to innovate, by copying some of the UI advances on the iPhone. That's fine, but I hope they've done their homework.

Redmond, Start Your Photocopiers.
Palm, Wash your dirty hands.

Apple didn't invent multitouch or GUI. If they have patents on things, Palm has some to fight back with. Apple should just look at the Pre as a challenge to them to build a better iPhone. Monster sales aside, the iPhone is not the end-all-be-all of smartphones.

I'm sure Apple has an "iPhone 2" in the works. Let's everyone play nice and beat the competition by coming out with better products.

"Playing nice" also means not stealing someone else's ideas. Maybe Apple didn't invent multi-touch, but if they own or shelled out hard cash to buy the IP then they have a right to pursue anyone who infringes upon it. One thing is sure: Palm sure as heck didn't invent multi-touch, and doesn't hold any patents on it either. Palm did copy the iPhone, though, at least have the honesty to admit that.

People, wait till the Pre comes out before making judgement. Whatever the case, if Palm did infringe on some of the patents that Apple has, they will work it out among themselves. It will not fair well for both parties to go to court. People will label Apple as a sore player and think Apple has no the nerve for competition. As for Palm, people will label them as not as innovative and taking short cuts to achieve a cut in the market, which they lost a decade ago. Now, I do know one thing, Apple has many innovative ideas for the iPhone, but so has Palm for their smart phones. It SEEMS like both companies are using these ideas on their phones. They both can enforce their patents and they will both have to take it out of their prospective phones, which will not bore well with customers, but one thing for sure, they will both be losers in this game. One last note, Apple back in the 80s kept their OS to themselves and they pretty much lost the PC war. Only now are they showing some sign of life, but they still are way behind. If Apple continues or does this same practice for their iPhone they will lose again. There's a reason why there's a saying, "learn from history, because it is bound to happen again."

If Apple makes an issue over their IP, because they don't want to share nor want competition maybe Palm should change the gesture. There's still time to change it. Make it to a circle motion, instead of a pinching to zoom in and out. Rotate to the right to zoom in and to the left zoom out. In a way, this is a faster.

Palm's big problem is that it might not matter if they are infringing or not. Apple would surely move for an injunction to prevent all Palm Pre sales until the matter has been decided, which I think they have a reasonable chance to get. In contrast, it is virtually hopeless for Palm to get any similar injunction against iPhone since they haven't bothered to speak up in the previous 18 months.

So, from Apple's point-of-view the worst case scenario is that they lose a legal fight and some multi-touch IP several years from now (when they've had plenty of time to develop the concept further), while their best case means putting Palm out of business in 3-6 months.

"Playing Nice" isn't always the way to get ahead... Remember back when Apple started allowing clones? Companies came up with "better" devices and innovative ideas, plain and simple. Then Apple suddenly decided they didn't like being outclassed at their own game and got spiteful and sued all the companies and got their stuff back (and kept the innovations as their own). Oh and before that, the licensed all but a few juicy bits to some companies wanting to develop the first mac notebook. Companies needed these key parts and stepped (or did they) over the line. Apple (as usual) sued and voila! "Thanks folks, you just did our R&D for us. We'll take that back, thank you very much."
Sad thing is, some years back,Apple DID have a reputation for this sort of predatory practice, and it should be illegal. Don't even think for a minute this is unlike them. Did they trick Palm into making the iphone 3.0? I doubt that sincerely, but they are shrewd. They are a good company, and they aren't stupid, but a spoiled brat sometimes. I am not the least bit surprised by this.

When the smoke is cleared Palm and Apple would have worked something out. Apple might have a case here, but everyone knows that multi-touch was not invented by Apple. So, how Apple will defend this would be interesting. Apple does two things good. First is marketing. Second, they take ideas that's out there already, put it in their products, and then make the consumers believe they were the ones who invented them. This will be the down fall of Apple. As for Palm, lately they haven't been innovative, but they have been in the past. They have brought out many things that you not only see in the iPhone, but many of the smart phones (or for that matter mobile phones) that's out in the market now. Now, I don't know if Palm patented these ideas, but if they did they should sue every mobile companies and either get money from them or tell them to take it out of their phones. I'm not bashing on Apple, I purchase Apple products. I even have the iPhone (both the original and 3G). I am just saying that Apple should give up their petty attitude and if they feel that some other company (trust me, today is the Pre, but other companies will come out with something even better sooner or later) is coming out with a product that's equal or better than the iPhone, they should go to the drawing board and try to bring out something better. Two more things, Palm on their Pre is coming out with multi-tasking. Maybe Palm has patented this, don't you think Apple would want this on their next update or iPhone? Think about that. Last, Palm must have something up the sleeves. They would not bring out the Pre with similar functions as the iPhone if they knew that Apple would come after them.

This might just be gamesmanship from Apple. They are getting the suggestion out there that Palm "copied" from them, which will be picked up and disseminated by their well-trained fanbois. It doesn't necessarily mean they'll actually sue.

The odds of apple getting an injunction to prevent sale of the Pre are less than slim. They would have to show the likelihood of irreperable harm if Palm was allowed to sell the device. Given Apple's reserves and market share, that's bloody unlikely.

If you really think Palm and Sprint haven't had their lawyers very carefully looking into this, you're blind.

Even if palm and apple made an Identicle phone, I would pick palm first, because I had a Newton, and it was innovative, or I thought so until I saw my first Visor.

Sprint and Palm know exactly what they're doing. How stupid would a company be if they came up with a phone that (in the videos and demos I've seen) is better than the iPhone without having all their i's dotted and t's crossed? Palm is not that stupid and they're waving it in front of apple for a reason. They're saying "try it MotherF***er, see what happens." This phone is not only the flagship for Palm but for Sprint too and they wouldnt put that much into a phone unless they were sure they'd come out on top. I almost think they were hopinf for apple to notice as some other of you others have mentioned to get free advertising.. "Come and see why apple is so pissed, the new PALM PRE!" it's genious really. Anyway, that's my two cents.

I think it is funny we are having an argument over the iphone's touchscreen as opposed to other touchscreens. HTC, HP, Audiovox, Palm , and on and on all had touch screens way before apple and all touch manners were already explored. Circle gestures, multi-tap, pinching, been there done that years ago. Any geek with in interest in mobile technology knows Apple is not an innovator. It is time for that wanna be cell phone producer to get a hint. Quit trying to control the consumer and give us something as stylish as the iphone and as friendly as the G1. Oh yeah, Palm just made it. Welcome "Pre"

as a user for both apple and Palm products, i think the innovation made by the two company are excellent,

so i think Apple doesnt have to show off that they are the company first invented multitouch and pinch zooming, got to say Apple are copying from science fiction movie who are the real inventor by creating ideas like that and already making prototype before Apple, Palm, HTC, etc...

good innovation only make market demand getting larger which in turn will make everyone happy...

keep the world unite

While Apple may have a multi-touch patent, it seems likely that the many of the other iPhone "inventions" mentioned above were actually invented and patented by Palm, not Apple.

For instance:

Ambient Light Sensor:
#7,268,775 - "Dynamic brightness range for portable computer displays based on ambient conditions"

Phone application buttons:
#7,007,239 - "Method and apparatus for accessing a contacts database and telephone services"

Accelerometer:
#7,256,767 - "Automatic orientation-based user interface for an ambiguous handheld device"

A quick search shows literally hundreds of patents issued to Palm, and easily a dozen or more that the iPhone seems to infringe on.

It seems likely that Palm developed the Pre knowing well that Apple would not want to fully open that can of worms.

Since a lot of the new Palm team came from Apple, perhaps they were quietly aware of Palm's patents and knowingly infringed on them when they were at Apple. Later, when they jumped ship to Palm, they'd know that on the other side, those same patents would protect them when developing features for the Pre.

Yawn.

Palm and HTC may have to work together so that some of Apple's broad sweeping Patents are shot down.

The Ifashion statement (aka IPhone) as Apple I think is finding out is just that, a fashion statement. When it comes to reality and bringing it to market where it counts - business - it fails horribly. Businesses and business people are the largest majority of people that purchase and demand these phones. Many a doctor, lawyer or ceo that I know have bought and returned an IPhone and returned it within a week because of the utter uselessness of the phone with a virtual keyboard and the 50% of phone calls missed because you just couldn't quite swipe your finger fast enough. Combine that with, and I can only comment for myself, the worst business customer service I personally have ever seen from ATT and I think I rather throw myself in front of a bus before owning one. Yes my 800w might not be perfect but with a couple programs on top of it, it certainly works better then an IPhone ever will when it comes to getting business done.

LOL. Feel better now? I can only marvel at your stupidity.

The guys at apple need to get over them self's, the next generation of operating systems will have multitouch like windows 7... and I'm pretty sure Microsoft did the whole pinching thing before apple did when the released a preview for their upcoming Microsoft surface

http://www.microsoft.com/surface/

Yeah it's table sized and uses lasers. Apple obviously ripped them off. Idiot.

!@#THUG LIFE#@!


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Wow. ^ this makes you a complete giant tool.

what a joke, appple didnt invent anything, not the mobilephone itself, touchscreen, even multi-touch, etc etc, nothing in iphone is original, everybody can make one better than before... fair game..... pissing in the pants huh...

Everyone here on Palm's side need to take a good hard look at what Apple has done in a very limited time when, back in January 2007, most said it couldn't be done. They own the technology that they use. Perhaps they didn't invent it, but you can bet your ass they bought it. They know that everyone and their grandmother knows that they have almost $30B in the bank and that they have to be very careful about infringing on others patents so, they don't. They know there's too many people wanting to take them to court. Is it too much that they expect others to play fair too? When they don't, then the courts are there to protect them.

Why should Palm be allowed to use Apple's IP for free when Apple either invented it or purchased it?

Those who have blinders on and are simply fretting because they might not get the PRE the way it currently is (with multi-touch) needs to see the bigger picture. Apple has earned everything they've gotten. They took major risks to bring the iPhone to light (including paying for the very name of the product). AT&T was the only provider who would give them 100% control of the product and it has paid off in spades for them, garnering them many more customers than they ever imagined in such a short time.

Apple has turned the whole cell phone industry around just like it has the music industry. They've done the near impossible. They deserve their IP without it being ripped off.

Well said.

Would the Palm really be any competition for Apple anyway? Palm is Sprint based, and Apple is AT&T based. While they both kind of suck, in my experience, AT&T still kicks the crap out of Sprint. Sprint is for old people.

I love how most people here hate apple so much that they are willing to just say f*** the laws. There is a reason that in the United States we have patent laws. The real question here is does apple have a valid complaint about the violation. That is for a court to decide. I doubt anyone here knows exactly all what apple or palm for that matter have patented or how exactly it is programmed into the os's. If apple has a patent for pinch zooming then the patent goes into details on how it works and if palm implements the technology in the same way they are violating the patent. If apple fails to enforce their patent then the law says they lose the ability to enforce it.

I've been using Macs since 1987 and have an iPhone 3G.

I welcome the Pre because competition is good.

But if Palm "steals" Apple's technology, that's not good.

Either way, Apple is not going away, nor Microsoft, and hopefully Palm and others will be there to help push the giants.

On the other hand, those who hate Apple (or Microsoft, for that matter) need to be careful what they wish for... if they go away, it's not a good thing, unless someone else is there to keep moving forward. And Palm isn't necessarily it!

Thanks to those who are providing good dialogue here.

You are all assuming that Palm is stealing patents from Apple. I have a feeling if Apple knew of specific patents being violated by Palm, then they would have made announcements and/or started lawsuits already. However, noone is able to pinpoint a specific patent, just speculate on which ones they think are violated. Show me the bacon and I'll believe Palm is violating it, absent of that, Palm is in the clear and is currently not in violation of any patents.

seigex
www.mojodn.com
A pre-emptive strike on the Mojo Development Community

In fact a Google Patent search of Multi Touch brings up this Link of a patent for a "Portable Electronic Device with multi-touch input." Patent Application #11/618,633 filed on 12/29/06 by Bas Ording, Scott Forstall, Greg Christie, Stephen O. Lemay and Irman Chaudhri. No mention in the patent about Apple, Inc. And a search of a few of the names listed above doesn't reveal any of them work for Apple, Inc.

seigex
www.mojodn.com
Start the community, NOW!

I stand corrected, I found a patent #7,479,949, which is held by Steve Jobs, et. al., which was awarded April 11, 2008. Guess this will be interesting to watch as its played out.

I'm more interested that patent applications were submitted prior to Apple's, however Apple won the patent.