Palm Shrugs Off Apple's Multi-Touch Patent, Confident That Pre Will Launch On Time

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palmvsappleUh oh. Those were the first words that came to mind when I read this morning that Apple had been awarded a patent for multi-touch technology. Multi-touch is only one of many compelling features on Palm's comeback device, but it certainly has caught the attention of Apple. Is Palm screwed, as many have wondered? Not according to Palm. I just got off the phone with spokesperson Lynn Fox, who reiterated that the company is on more than solid ground should the legal fists start flying. At first, Fox provided pretty much the same statment as she did before, saying that  "Palm has a long history of innovation that's reflective in our products and our robust patent portfolio, and we've been long recognized for those fundamental patents in the mobile space. If we are faced with legal action we are confident that we have the tools necessary to defend ourselves." But when we pressed a bit further about the possibility that the lawsuit might impact Palm's upcoming launch of the Pre, Fox said that "We have no reason to think that our launch plans for the webOS and Palm Pre won't come to full fruition. We have no plans to change the launch time." As much as Apple may feel emboldened right now, I'm not so sure that the company wants to duke it out with little ol' Palm. Even if Apple can prove that Pre is ripping off the iPhone's multi-touch goodness and win that battle, Palm could win the war should the company be able to prove that the iPhone ripped off all sorts of other touch-specific IP stored away in Palm's war chest. In other words, when Palm says "they have the tools to defend themselves" they probably mean it. Regardless of what happens on the legal side, I hope that the Pre comes to market. The smart phone space needs healthy competition, and to me multi-touch is a secondary feature compared to what's most exciting about the device. It's what Palm has done in terms of multitasking; integrating contacts, calendar, and messaging; and features like universal search that will make people want it. Apple certainly has a right to defend itself, but I think multi-touch on the Pre is more of a bonus.
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Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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  • Sharad Patel Says:

    Everyone hates bullies - Apple may find that even if it has a case it may suffer from negative publicity (just look at SCO and the Unix debacle). I have been using my fingers to interact with the world (digital and real) ever since I can remember - does Apple intend to patent the finger? I am a huge Apple fan - ever since the very first Mac - but that relationship may come to an end. I sincerely hope not.

  • Choda Boy Says:

    I really do not understand all the fuss about multi-touch on the Pre. The only multi-touch gestures I have seen anyone use on the Pre so far is the pinch to resize. Big deal! Also, from what I understand, the Cypress screen actually interprets the gestures, not the Pre software. So, wouldn't they be the ones sweating about multi-touch?

  • ColdReality Says:

    This is just a repeat of Apple's efforts to claim it invented the GUI, window/menu/icon and mouse back in the 1980s. They lost that effort due to prior art as well.

    I've used copy machines and navigation system touchscreens years before the iPhone was even conceived that utilized multi-touch interfaces. Touchscreens are nothing new, and trying to claim exclusivity over a touchscreen that recognizes more than one touch is not going to pass muster.

    Apple should compete by coming up with new ideas like Palm has, not by trying to game the legal system.

  • Martin Pasch Says:

    Apple's multi-touch patent is potentially prior art. In 1996, I bought a Mitac 5031 Notebook. This notebook already had a touchpad you could use as any other touchpad, except if you put two fingers on it. Then you could resize/move the selected windows...

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