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Does Apple have a case against Palm?

There's been some growling and teeth-baring between Apple and Palm lately, but Engadget wanted to know: does Apple really have a case against Palm for their patented technology? They put their (and our) legal correspondent, Nilay Patel, on the case, and in this long but very interesting analysis piece, he answers: probably.

But things, as usual, aren't that simple. Apple's patents don't just cover "multitouch" -- they cover very specific behaviors using the multitouch feature, and if Palm's Pre phone doesn't use those behaviors, there's no infringement. Of course, Patel is only going off of video of the Pre -- they don't have it in hand yet -- so things could change before the unit is released, but they do find significant evidence that Palm may have stepped on some lines it shouldn't have.

Then again, as Patel and patent attorney Mathew Gavronski discovered, Palm's got some tricks of their own -- they've got a whole slew of easily findable patents that the iPhone appears to infringe upon, including using an ambient light sensor to define brightness, looking up contacts just by using initials, and a number of other functions. Then again again, Apple's got pending patents in the fire that it can revise in case they think Palm is really trying to hone in on their business.

So bottom line, this could be really messy or it could be really simple, and Engadget concludes that the ball is in Apple's court -- if there's going to be a war, they say, the first shot will be from them. Personally, I think it's all corporate posturing -- as Patel points out, Palm has much less to lose, not having sold a single unit yet, and Apple is just making sure they know what's what. But there is a lot of money here, and if one side decides it'll cost less to go after the other, the fur could fly.

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