Skip Links

Sour Apple: Tim Cook warns iPhone rivals "don't rip off" our patents.

By John Cox on Thu, 01/22/09 - 6:16pm.

Apple's COO Tim Cook issued a veiled warning to the company's iPhone rivals this week, especially Palm with its well-recieved but not-yet-released Palm Pre smartphone.

The Pre has a touchscreen that supports gestures, apparently similar in its effects to the iPhone's celebrated, and patented, multi-touch screen. Other touchscreen phones typically support individual touches or presses. (We have a slideshow, based on the two products spec sheets, that gives a preliminary idea how the two phones compare)

Cook's comments came near the end of Apple’s quarterly earnings conference call, headed by Cook, on Wednesday afternoon. The company reported record quarterly revenue. Cook was asked about the growing number of challengers to the iPhone. According to SeekingAlpha's Erick Schonfeld, Cook made an "oblique threat."

"We approach this business as a software platform business. We are watching the landscape. We like competition as long as they don’t rip off our IP. And if they do, we will go after anyone who does."

Schonfeld, and others, interpreted his words as a warning to Palm. When Cook was asked directly if that was his intended target, he wouldn't be more specific, accorindg to Schonfeld: "I don’t want to talk about any specific company. We are ready to suit up and go against anyone. However, we will not stand for having our IP ripped off."

Schonfeld was one of those who recalled that Palm executive chairman Jon Rubinstein is Apple's former product chief. He was brought into Palm by Elevation Partners, Palm's biggest investor. The firm in December invested another $100 million in Palm, almost a third of their original $325 million investment in 2007.