Apple Threatening Patent Lawsuits Over New Palm Pre

from the ugh dept

You may recall back when Apple first announced the iPhone, Steve Jobs proudly talked up how the company had over 200 patents on the various technologies in the phone. We wondered whether the company really needed those patents. After all, most of the “new” technologies in the iPhone weren’t really new at all. The compelling part of the iPhone was that it was put together in a nice (relatively inexpensive) package, and designed so well that people wanted it. The massive success of the iPhone since then has highlighted that fact. It had nothing to do with patents, and everything to do with designing a phone that many people wanted. And, of course, the patents did absolutely nothing to stop patent infringement lawsuits from being filed against the company. However, Apple had resisted using those particular patents against anyone else… but that may be changing.

On the latest earnings call, when asked about the new Palm Pre phone, which is getting fantastic reviews for actually doing a bunch of things better than the iPhone, Apple’s Tim Cook made it clear that the company was examining patent lawsuits against Palm:

We like competition–as long as our competitors don’t rip off our IP. And we’re going to go after anyone who does. I’m not talking about any particular company, but we are ready to suit up and go against anyone. We will not stand for having our IP ripped off, and we will use every weapon at our disposal….

In other words, Apple doesn’t really like competition — at least not competition that improves upon an idea before Apple is able to do so. Once again, we’re seeing the problem of patents and left wondering where the benefits are. Having a strong competitor to the iPhone in the market will drive everyone to more rapidly innovate and improve on the offering — and that’s only going to be good for everyone. More innovation will drive more revenue while making happier customers. Using patent lawsuits to take a strong competitor out of the market (or distract them with court time and costs) is about tearing down innovation, rather than encouraging it.

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Companies: apple, palm

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Comments on “Apple Threatening Patent Lawsuits Over New Palm Pre”

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51 Comments
george says:

wrong premice

Ok first of all both palm and apple are commercial companies holding patents and running their business based on patents. So how exactly is Palm innovating by infringing on Apple’s patents? They are outright stealing Apple’s R&D investments and dressing them up. And if this is really the case then they deserve to be punished.

The problem with patents is not that companies like Apple try to protect their investments ( like the iPhone ) but that there are companies who hold patents in hope that some day they will bring them money because the tech will be deemed useful by someone else. You’d be surprised to find out how many companies patent stuff that has nothing to do with any of their current products just in case someone else decides to use it in the future ( IBM being one of them ).

shmengie says:

Re: wrong premice

george sez: “Ok first of all both palm and apple are commercial companies holding patents and running their business based on patents. So how exactly is Palm innovating by infringing on Apple’s patents? They are outright stealing Apple’s R&D investments and dressing them up. And if this is really the case then they deserve to be punished.”

for the record, it is possible to infringe on a patent without stealing. lame example: let’s say i never even heard of an iphone and i come up with an idea for multi-touch and implement it in my new, hot smartphone. bam! i just infringed without stealing.

it’s hard to imagine a company the size of palm not having a team of patent researchers, so infringement *seems* unlikely (then again, look at warner/fox/watchmen). this makes me wonder: is the uspo ever culpable in patent infringement cases? like, if they accidentally issue conflicting patents? after all, the uspo is just a bunch of fallible humans. and, it’s the government, so you know there’s gotta be huge fuck-ups all the time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: wrong premice

“george sez: ‘Ok first of all both palm and apple are commercial companies holding patents and running their business based on patents. So how exactly is Palm innovating by infringing on Apple’s patents? They are outright stealing Apple’s R&D investments and dressing them up. And if this is really the case then they deserve to be punished.'”

How could Palm be STEALING the technology of Apple, if Apple still has the technology? Also I would ask, if it is possible to “steal” something from someone, without denying them the use of it, is it still morally wrong? Would it be wrong for me to steal food from you, if it didnt deny you of any food? If you think it would, why?

Twinrova says:

Dear Steve Jobs,

Now that you have plenty of time to sit and watch your company fall to pieces, maybe now should be a good time to read the problem with Apple’s business model.

This news is just another example of why I will never, ever, ever buy any Apple product. The business you helped create does nothing but screw consumers with overpriced goods, products which don’t fit well with others, DRM encoded software, and of course, bad business practices.

I personally hope you suffer in pain as karma will surely take over from here. In your remaining days, you should help your previous business learn from example, not by “industry standards”. You should empower for change and make Apple a business in which sells products *I* would buy.

Until then, Apple can rot in hell and this news only fuels my reason for believing this.

Sincerely,
Twinrova

Personal note: To those fanboys of Apple, don’t bother wasting your time expressing your opinions to me. I could care less about your stupid dedication to this company.

Now, where’s my Samsung MP3 player which was $100 less with 2GB more data and a battery life of nearly 40 hours? Ah, there it is. Excuse me now.

Droslovinia (profile) says:

Re: Dear Steve Jobs,

Twinrova, you have a right to use whatever you want, just as Apple has a right to produce what it wants and pocket billions of dollars, whether you like it or not.

You even have a right to be an angry, uncivil asshole in your posts – not that it’s cool, but you do have that right – and you don’t have to care what anyone else thinks. But you might want to be careful about invoking “karma” while you’re being so transparently hateful.

Twinrova says:

Re: Re: Dear Steve Jobs,

Don’t worry, my karma’s just fine. Ranting helps me vent, and I know some people will take it personally (can’t understand why).

It’s what I do that keeps my karma in check.

To AC #1:
“The phrase you want is “I couldn’t care less”.
Actually, “could not” is incorrect. As “irregardless” is often mispoken, so is the “couldn’t” in the phrase.

Could not implies I, well, could not care. I do care. I care less, hence “could care less”.

In actually, I should have written it as “I will care less”, as it will imply my actual intent.
🙂

And for those who think I’m an angry, bitter asshole, you may be right. But I feel I’ve earned the right to be so. Every day, Corporate America makes it more difficult for consumers to enjoy the wants in life.

Not all businesses are like this, of course, but many are. And why does it seem it’s always those who’ve established themselves in the marketplace?

This blog is a perfect example. Some of you, who don’t feel as angry as I do, can feel free to discuss your reasons why Apple is taking this direction and why you continue to support the decision via product purchases.

I’ll check back throughout the day for replies to this.

Enjoy your day! 🙂

AC2 says:

Re: Re: Re: Dear Steve Jobs,

To AC #1:
“The phrase you want is “I couldn’t care less”.
Actually, “could not” is incorrect. As “irregardless” is often mispoken, so is the “couldn’t” in the phrase.

Could not implies I, well, could not care. I do care. I care less, hence “could care less”.

You’re quite wrong.

From…
http://incompetech.com/gallimaufry/care_less.html

“I could care less.”
If one cares to any degree at all, it is possible to care less. Those who care a great deal could care less.

“I couldn’t care less”
It it impossible to care less.

Genericapplefanboy says:

Re: Screw you twinrova you dumbass

iTunes is drm free (just putting that out there)

Also, If you don’t listen to arguements then how do you know that apple is as bad as you think and that you are right

What do you mean “bad business practices” last time I checked being
competitive wasn’t bad business!

Apple is not screwing the customer over the durability of their products amazes me and I would gladly pay more for Steve’s art than that ugly as shit samsung bullshit that breaks in half

They do have a problem with secrecy and paranoia I will give you that

Sue says:

Re: Dear Steve Jobs,

Uh… Yeah, I think you have a little too much time on your hands to be so overly passionate about hating someone you don’t even know, for having so much more money and being so much smarter and luckier than you. Get a life, maybe that samsung crap can help you. And by the way, no, i’m not an apple lover, I just can’t stand ppl who put others down because of sheer boredom. Good luck with that.

Sue says:

Re: Dear Steve Jobs,

Uh… Yeah, I think you have a little too much time on your hands to be so overly passionate about hating someone you don’t even know, for having so much more money and being so much smarter and luckier than you. Get a life, maybe that samsung crap can help you. And by the way, no, i’m not an apple lover, I just can’t stand ppl who put others down because of sheer boredom. Good luck with that.

er says:

Palm Pre

Just a slight correction about.

“On the latest earnings call, when asked about the new Palm Pre phone, which is getting fantastic reviews for actually doing a bunch of things better than the iPhone”

The Pre promises to get right, at CES there was only a Demo Unit that got shown to the reviewers but they were not allowed to touch and the GUI is not finished yet.

Also you are assuming that Cook was talking about the Pre he never specified the product or companies.

duane (profile) says:

Hate the sin, not the sinner

In case you have noticed, this is a valid business method these days. If Apple did sue Palm, get injunctions, etc., that’s pretty much a guarantee that Palm is going down. They’re hanging on by teeth and toenails right now.

Apple has absolutely no reason not to, and every reason to, take full advantage of every business method at their disposal. Unfortunately suing someone to stop them competing is not only valid, it’s popular. Everyone’s doing it and the only way to change that reality is to change the system that encourages this hijinkery.

Crabby (profile) says:

Re: Hate the sin, not the sinner

No, the sinner needs to be punished, too. I’m sick of the lawsuits — they only enrich the lawyers. They destroy companies and innovation. Small inventors are afraid to put their product out because crApple might get them.

It’s time to put a stop to this behavior, and as consumers we can flex our spending muscles and stop rewarding companies that engage in this kind of behavior.

Jerry Leichter (profile) says:

Just who are you disagreeing with?

“Building a business by preventing others from improving on what you have”. Ahem. The whole *point* of a patent is to grant a monopoly to the patent holder. This is a tradeoff discussed by the founders when the Constitution was written. The intent of the specific grant of authority to create a patent system is to implement a social tradeoff: Publish novel, original, useful techniques for others to study and we’ll grant you a monopoly for a limited period of time. (And, unlike copyrights, that time has not grown without bound.)

It’s one thing to argue that the way we’re granting patents on software makes a mockery of the Constitutional intent. It’s quite another to argue that the whole notion of such a tradeoff is invalid. You’ll find little support, outside of some (not all) libertarian think tanks, for the latter proposition (and implementing it would arguably require an amendment to the Constitution).

Combinations of old ideas in new ways *can be* the basis of a good patent. In fact, to some degree, it’s the basis of *most* patents – very little we do is *completely* new. As Newton said, he stood on the shoulders of giants.

Apple doesn’t have a particularly bad history in using its patents to attack competitors. (It certainly has an unfortunate history of various other techniques for attacking those it doesn’t like – though it’s tended to be more those who it perceives as leaking its secrets than anything else). Attacking them for something they *might* do based on a patent that *might* be bogus … that’s a bit extreme.

Hulser says:

Re: Just who are you disagreeing with?

In his post, Mike says,
“Using patent lawsuits to take a strong competitor out of the market (or distract them with court time and costs) is about tearing down innovation, rather than encouraging it.”

Not to put words in Mike’s mouth, but based on my frequent reading of TechDirt, I don’t think he’s arguing that all patent lawsuits are bad or even that the “tradeoff [associated with the concept of the patent] is invalid”. My interpretation is that he’s arguing that bad patents are the problem which has ended up doing more harm to innovation than good.

mobiGeek says:

Re: Re: Just who are you disagreeing with?

Then you haven’t been reading closely enough, at least IMO.

The patent system was brought forward with one purpose: to promote advances in science and technology. Mike has made it quite clear that there is NO evidence to show that patents indeed promote advances.

But there is lots of evidence showing that patents HINDER innovation, both directly such as in lawsuits and indirectly in that companies/individuals will not do work in certain areas specifically because those areas are “patent encumbered”.

IMO, the primary author on TechDirt is quite pro-free markets, and the patent system is specifically anti-free market; a patent is a government granted monopoly.

If someone claims to be free market capitalists (i.e. believe in capitalism) and yet be pro-patent (and/or pro-copyright), they are suffering from a severe case of philosophical inconsistencies.

Ray Scott (user link) says:

Rip-Offs = Innovation?

How do you get to that one? Those that rip off patented work, aren’t innovating, they are merely copying. In other words, they couldn’t be bothered to invent (innovate) something of their own.

This is the dumbest article I’ve read this entire month. You just sound like a whinging Microsoft fan that’s said way too much to ever switch without being called a complete hypocrite.

Nabil says:

Re: Rip-Offs = Innovation?

Actually, does no one see irony? Who actually copied who? Palm was the first touch screen phone. I used the Palm Treo for years and, like many Treo users, didn’t use the stylus 95% of the time. The only real difference is that one is heat sensitive and the other touch sensitive (in fact there some benefits to touch over heat, like being able to make or end a call with a pair of gloves on).

In the end though, it’s just a touch screen, why even give it a patent? iPhone, like the iPods, does well because of design. Apple is a consumer electronics company at the end of the day. As an interesting question, would the iPhone have done as well had it not followed the iPod, don’t think so.

Unfortunately for Palm they missed a number of opportunities and lost out to the Blackberry and iPhones of this world. On saying that, so did Nokia, I had their first brick (communicator) back in 1996 – that was the first smart phone – and guess what, 10 years later it is pretty much the same, just a tad smaller and still with no market share.

While Apple does some great electronics its proprietory philosophy sucks and stifles innovation. Incidently, they are now suing and saying jail breaking the iPhone is illegal.

Anonymous Coward says:

History repeating itself

Keep in mind that Apple sued Commodore and Atari when they released the Amiga and ST in 1985 — asserting that Apple, and only Apple, had the right to produce GUI-based machines. They added Microsoft and Geoworks (remember them?) to the lawsuit later.

The end result? The GUI was categorized as prior art (invented at Xerox PARC), Apple’s lawsuits were thrown out, and the judgments also invalidated claims that Apple claimed to own that its competitors were respecting.

As a result, the competition was able to add features that had been off-limits for a long time to their own machines, and Microsoft proceeded to whittle Apple’s global market share from 20% of the world market in PCs down to the rounding error that it is today.

If Apple repeats this mistake by claiming patents on touch-screens, multi-touch, full-screen web browsing, and other commodity ideas on cell phones, there’s no reason to believe this attempt would be any more successful.

Benjamin Wheeler (user link) says:

Patents should be enforced!

You don’t plunk down significant development bucks to innovate so other
companies can rip you off. Why would any company want to innovate if they knew it would be more profitable to knock-off and improve on someone else’s genius. They should enforce the patents, I think they should even enforce “trade dress” laws for all the touch screen phones that have ripped off the look of the iPhone. In addition investors in innovation should receive a tax credit
and low cost financing as an incentive to take a risk and innovate.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

While there might be plenty of examples of patent abuse, this one is not one of those.

Why not?

Are you saying companies which create a product and patent it have *no* right to protect that patent? Especially recent ones?

No one said anything about their rights. They may have a right to protect, but that hardly means that it’s a positive development.

You lose your credibility on these IP arguments when you cross that line.

Actually, I’d say you lose credibility when you set up a strawman of something we didn’t say.

nasch says:

Re: Re: Re:

I wouldn’t mind some clarification either. What exactly are you criticizing here?

1. These specific patents are bad and shouldn’t have been issued (if so, why?)
2. What Palm is doing doesn’t infringe Apple’s patents, so they should keep their mouths shut
3. The whole idea of granting monopoly rights in the patent system is inappropriate and should be eliminated
4. Although Apple’s patents are legitimate and Palm is infringing them, Apple shouldn’t attempt to enforce those patents (if not, why not?)
5. ?

You didn’t offer any evidence for really any of these. I don’t think 3 is your position, but if it is by all means let us know.

ColdReality says:

Palm Should Countersue Apple For Infringement...

… after all, they copied the following features from the Treo:

1) A ringer on/off switch with red coloring that vibrates when the phone has turned off (something that Palm was first to market with);

2) Push e-mail for IMAP and POP3;

3) A touch-screen smartphone (another thing Palm OS was first to market with);

4) Desktop synchoronization and software ROM updates via USB.

Those are four that pop to mind immediately as “IP” that Apple “borrowed” from Palm.

And as iFanatics inform us, it doesn’t matter if the concepts were prior art OUTSIDE of cell phones — whoever used them first gets to claim them for all eternity. Thus, since Palm used them first, Palm should file an injunction declaring all iPhones to be illegal and get them pulled off the store shelves if Apple even LOOKS at them cockeyed.

Cold Reality says:

Let’s also not forget that Apple copied Palm’s threaded SMS client on the iPhone.

I have little doubt that Palm’s got most, if not all, of the five features I listed patented. And Apple’s sold something like 20 million iPhones. If Palm gets $50 for every infringement on every phone sold, Apple could end up owing Palm something like $5 billion.

Add in another lawsuit on top of that suing Apple for loss of revenue due to the infringements and a suit hitting them for malicious litigation, and Apple could end up going under.

Anon says:

People wouldn’t invent things if there wasn’t money in it. Patents protect the profitability of an idea – they are the incentive for scientists and engineers to make a reality of ideas. If you remove patents, everyone will just wait for the first company to do all the legwork and then follow suit with customizations.

So, in reality, without patents – no one would be willing to put in the legwork.

Ron says:

Palm Pre Hammers iPhone

The iPhone is a nice little brick but no multitasking. The Pre is a sweet smartphone which does not cost a fortune each month in charges, unlike the iPhone and AT&T. Lots of apps offered and in the works and more each week. Multitasking, fast 3G, WIFI, low cost unlimited data plan, a keyboard, real time e-mail beats the crap out of Blackberry for business and the iPhone for personal use. It doesn’t have a video camera. Yet. So what. Top phone and rate plan can’t be beat.

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