by Carlo Longino

Filed Under:
iphone, multi-touch, patents, pre

apple, palm

Analyst Says What We Already Knew: Apple's Multi-Touch Patent Fight Won't Help Its Business

from the in-case-you-didn't-get-it-yet dept

After Palm showed off its new Pre smartphone, including the device's multitouch interface, at the Consumer Electronics Show last month, Apple made some threatening noises about how it would go after anybody who "ripped off" its intellectual property. As always, we didn't see how this would benefit anybody in the marketplace, since competition pays benefits to consumers, and drives participants, even Apple, to continually innovate and improve their products. Now, a wireless industry analyst has called Apple's threats into question. He makes the point that a long, drawn out IP fight won't help Apple's business in the long run: "Building on the company's legacy as one of the greatest innovators in the technology industry may be a smarter business model than taking on the rest of the industry in a battle that may be impossible to win."

His reasoning is twofold: first and most obviously, Apple stands to gain more by competing in the market than competing in the courts. Second, he says that if Apple went ahead with patent suits, it may not be able to win them. He says that it appears that much of Apple's multitouch IP portfolio is based on work from a couple of its employees -- who also were granted a number of multitouch patents while they were employed by the University of Delaware. The University holds those patents, while the analyst also found a lot of potential prior art he says could threaten the Apple patents' validity if they're reviewed. So if Apple realizes the patents may not stand up to a review, it could explain the bluster; but once it's clear the threats are empty, they hold no value. The question now seems to be how long Apple will try to play out the show, and how many resources it will throw at it that would be better spent on developing its products.

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  1. identicon
    siobahn, 4 Feb 2009 @ 11:07am

    Something weird's going on

    Most people, apparently here too, are focusing on one single Apple patent (the one on multitouch) and overlooking the bigger picture: that Apple has "taken out" not one or two but hundreds of patent applications relating to the iPhone/iPod Touch. If you think back to the day Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone (January 9th 2007), he had a slide on screen about that fact and even said "and boy have we patented it". If you recall from further back, there was even a design patent covering the appearance of the iPhone.

    Now jump forward to today. The iPhone clones like the Palm-Pre, Meizu M8, and just announced Toshiba TG01 all copied not just the touch screen component, but the overall appearance. How can that be? Apple's rivals cannot presume they can overcome ALL of the 100's of patent filings Apple has (should they ultimately issue as patents), can they? Yet Palm has rushed into betting their whole continued existence on the success of copying an Apple product?
    Something doesn't add up here. Either something else is going on here, or companies like Palm are so stupid they are willing to face shareholder class action suits when their attack on Apple fails and their whole operation collapses. Something weird is going on, and it sure ain't hinging on that single Apple multitouch patent.

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