The Apple versus Palm debate is beginning to develop some heat. After Apple was awarded the so-called “iPhone patent” yesterday, in which multitouch and many other aspects of the iPhone’s design were detailed, Palm has responded with an official shrug.
According to company spokesperson Lynn Fox, who spoke to Laptopmag, Palm has “no reason to think that our launch plans for the webOS and Palm Pre won’t come to full fruition. We have no plans to change the launch time.” That’s pretty plain talking.
Fox also came up with her own thinly-veiled threat, responding to Tim Cook’s threat that Apple would defend its IP: “Palm has a long history of innovation that’s reflective in our products and our robust patent portfolio, and we’ve been long recognized for those fundamental patents in the mobile space. If we are faced with legal action we are confident that we have the tools necessary to defend ourselves.”
In other words, if Apple tries to send its lawyers to attack Palm, the company feels it has adequate defenses. It’s no stranger to IP legal challenges either. Back in 2006 a company called NTP challenged Palm with violating some of its patents relating to wireless interchange of email between portable devices—NTP had achieved success with similar claims against RIM, earning a $600 million settlement. The case was officially put on hold in mid-2007, with Palm alleging that NTP was using patents of “doubtful validity”.
And in 2002 Palm (and Handspring) won a case in which NCR claimed it had previously patented a “revolutionary new device and system for handling and transmitting data.” A federal judge ruled in Palm’s favor.
Palm was largely responsible for bringing the Personal Digital Assistant to the world—and the PDA has been instrumental in shaping today’s smartphone devices. So it’d be foolish to think that Palm doesn’t have a swag bag full of its own patents in order to protect its IP. Some Googling finds this Palm patent, for example: “Method and apparatus for accessing a contacts database and telephone services.” It was filed back in 2001 and describes methods for managing a phone number database, including a quick-access “speed dial” option, that’s eerily similar to the way the iPhone carries out that task.
Perhaps Apple should limit its battle to mere words: It might not want to run up against Palm in court.