iPhone vs. Pre: Can Apple multi-touch patent shut down Palm?

Will Apple really slap a lawsuit on Palm the minute the Palm Pre starts shipping?

Will Apple really slap a lawsuit on Palm the minute the Palm Pre starts shipping as a Sprint smartphone later this year? Apple's posturing has lots of people thinking so. The reason: Apple's newly awarded patent for multi-touch technology, which also drives the interface for the Palm Pre. Just when it began to look like Palm had finally produced an iPhone killer, Apple has conveniently found a way to shut down the whole show.

Or has it?

Not everyone is convinced Palm is in trouble. The Apple patent has been in the works for years, and Palm was surely smart enough to exploit loopholes in perfectly legal ways, writes Christoph J. Landers in a PalmAddicts post. For example: the patent states that the touch-sensitive area separate from the touchscreen, aka the gesture area, does not have a display. So Palm made the Palm Pre's gesture area light up, thus "display".

"Sneaky!" writes an ebullient Landers. "I love it!"

That's just one way Palm could fight back. Lawyer Nilay Patel points out in the Engadget article, Apple vs. Palm: the in-depth analysis, that Palm could countersue Apple for infringing on a number of patented Palm features.

"If you're going to say that the Pre crosses the boundaries of Apple's spring-back edge scrolling patent, you're really not in a position to say that the iPhone doesn't similarly ape Palm's call-management patent -- or the brightness patent, or the contacts patent, or the dim-during-sync patent, or ... you get the idea. Apple might be the more infamous IP juggernaut, but Palm has literally hundreds of patents of its own, and we managed to dig up four that seem to directly implicate the iPhone in just a few hours of searching."

It should be an interesting roll-out.

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