First Blood: Apple vs. Palm

Apple has just been awarded a far-reaching patent titled "Touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics." Does this sound enough like an iPhone? The patent may be the first step in a legal battle between Apple and Palm over the Palm Pre. The two companies have already started to exchange harsh words.

Palm's stock price dropped after Apple COO Tim Cook was asked about the increasing threat of competitors against the iPhone in a quarterly conference call. His response? "We will not stand for having our IP [intellectual property] ripped off." Cook vowed the company would use "every weapon at our disposal" if the iPhone interface was copied.

Palm has already taken the bait. Lynn Fox, a Palm representative responded, "Palm has a long history of innovation that is reflected in our products and robust patent portfolio, and we have long been recognized for our fundamental patents in the mobile space. If faced with legal action, we are confident that we have the tools necessary to defend ourselves." Is it getting hot in here?

The Palm Pre is expected to hit shelves in the first half of 2009. The device has a slide out keyboard and a touch screen interface capable of- you guessed it: swipes, pinches, and other gestures. The competition between the two companies gets even more intense considering the fact that Apple's former CFO, Fred Anderson, is now on Palm's board of directors. In addition, Apple engineer Jon Rubenstein is currently the executive chairman of Palm.

Ladies and gentlemen, run for the fallout shelter. This could get ugly.