Palm to Apple: Bring It
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….We will not stand for having our IP ripped off and we’ll use whatever weapons we have at our disposal [to make sure that doesn't happen]. I don’t know that I can be more clear than that.”
— Apple COO Tim Cook on the company’s iPhone intellectual property
Though Apple COO Tim Cook didn’t mention any companies by name in his recent warning to those who would take liberties with Apple’s intellectual property, it was clear to whom he was referring: Palm.
Palm, whose new Pre handset, though built around a different paradigm than the iPhone, boasts some remarkably iPhone-like features. Palm, a company whose reinvention is being stewarded by Jon Rubinstein, once Apple’s head of hardware engineering and a guy with an undoubtedly deep knowledge of Cupertino’s R&D process. Palm, a company now full of ex-Apple engineers. Palm, which last year accepted a $325 million cash infusion from Elevation Partners — the VC outfit at which former Apple CFO Fred Anderson now spends much of his time.
Well, if Palm was shaken by Cook’s remarks, it’s not letting on. Asked if such aggro rhetoric about Apple’s intellectual property and the grim legal fate of those who might pilfer it worried the company, Palm spokesperson Lynn Fox said not in the least. “Palm has a long history of innovation that is reflected in our products and robust patent portfolio (31 pages of patents in Google Patent Search), and we have long been recognized for our fundamental patents in the mobile space,” she told Digital Daily. “If faced with legal action, we are confident that we have the tools necessary to defend ourselves.”
So while Palm (PALM) may not be preparing for a legal showdown with Apple (AAPL), the idea that one might occur does seem to have at least crossed the company’s mind. And, clearly, it’s crossed Apple’s as well. Cook’s comment–though it may have seemed off the cuff–was obviously a calculated one. And the heat and emotion behind it suggest that Apple is not at all pleased with the iPhone’s newest rival and those who designed it. But Palm doesn’t seem to much care. So for now, it’s all posturing and hawkish rhetoric. Will it evolve into something more? That’s a question only Apple legal can answer.