And it’s time for another round of she-said, he-almost-said-but-actually-nobody’s-quite-sure-what-was-actually-said. The continuing soap opera of the intersection between the worlds of technology and law is seemingly never ending.
In last week’s financial results conference call, Apple COO Tim Cook answered a question from RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky about competitors in the smartphone market such as the T-Mobile G1 and Palm’s new Pre smartphone (introduced by former Apple executive Jon Rubinstein at CES earlier this month). At the end of his spiel, Cook made a seemingly offhand comment:
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.
Prompted for a followup from Abramsky, who alluded to the fact that the Palm Pre seems to be the first device besides the iPhone to boast multitouch capabilties, Cook elaborated:
I don’t want to talk about any specific company. I’m just making a general statement that we think competition is good. It makes us all better. And we are ready to suit up and go against anyone. However, we will not stand for having our IP ripped off, and we’ll use whatever weapons that we have at our disposal. I don’t know that I can be clearer than that.
Oh, snap. Sure, Cook said he didn’t want to name names, but it’s not hard to read between the lines when it’s in 72-point type. Or, at least Palm didn’t think so; spokesperson Lynn Fox—a former Apple employee herself—talked to Digital Daily about the matter:
Palm has a long history of innovation that is reflected in our products and robust patent portfolio and we have long been recognized for our fundamental patents in the mobile space…If faced with legal action, we are confident that we have the tools necessary to defend ourselves.
Is that the sound of knives being sharpened? Maybe, maybe not. At this point it’s nothing more than posturing. Palm hasn’t formally announced a ship date for the Pre, but it’s expected in the first half of this year. Will it come with a side order of piping-hot Apple lawsuit? Tune in to the next exciting episode of Silicon Valley 90210.