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Wednesday, February 11, 2009, 12:05 pm PT (03:05 pm ET)

Palm throws cold water on possible patent battle

The president and chief executive of Palm says his company is more focused on finishing the Pre than worrying about any sort of patent battle with iPhone maker Apple.

According to Electronista, Palm chief Ed Colligan told investors during a conference call that there are no pending legal actions with Apple at the moment concerning the upcoming Palm Pre, noting his company has amassed 1500 patents over 15 years just in case.

Comparing patent disputes to the animal world, Colligan said:

It's like two little porcupines going around, and you don't want to touch each other because you might get stung. You peacefully coexist and everything's OK and you keep working together. We're very respectful about people's intellectual property, we believe we're huge innovators and have been for a lot of years and that this product has an enormous number of innovations in it. If something does happen there, we do have the portfolio, we think to defend ourselves and to be successful doing that. But nothing's happened to date, so we're really just focused on getting the product out the door."

Apple's acting chief Tim Cook insisted he wasn't talking about any specific company when he made his now-famous comment last month, specifically, "We will not stand to have our IP ripped off. We'll use whatever weapons we have at our disposal."

The situation was somewhat escalated when a Palm spokesperson said, "Apple was not the first to do multi-touch," promising a "vigorous" fight should the Palm Pre be challenged in court.

Not long after, Apple was awarded a sprawling 358-page patent covering the touch screen, multi-touch GUI, and other aspects of the iPhone.

Palm Pre


Back to the Pre...

Colligan had more to say besides patent issues. The PalmOS will not appear on any new devices as Palm will embrace its new webOS, which will not be licensed to third-party manufacturers. (However, Windows Mobile will still be available for enterprise solutions.)

The Pre will launch with an accompanying applications store, but Palm will also allow programs to be installed independently through third parties, standing in contrast to the iPhone App Store's closed distribution model. Acknowledging the large community of medical professionals who rely on existing Palm devices, Colligan said the availability of medical app Epocrates to the Pre is a top priority. A competing iPhone version is already available.

Palm has lined up carriers for an international launch in North America, Latin America, and Europe in addition to Sprint in the United States.

The handset maker is hoping for a strong showing with Sprint, potentially attracting more U.S. carriers in the 2010 timeframe, meaning Sprint's exclusivity window will not last long.