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

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

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!