posted by Thom Holwerda on Thu 29th Jan 2009 16:10 UTC
IconThere has been a bit of a buzz lately surrounding some indeterminate patent threats going back and forth between Apple and Palm. Palm is about to launch the Pre, which supposedly could infringe on a number of iPhone patents. Both companies have stated that they will defend themselves against any possible patent infringements. Engadget enlisted the help of two patent attornies, and they took a good look at both sides and came up with some interesting results: while Palm could be infringing on Apple's patents, Apple sure as water is also infringing on a number of Palm patents. Still, that doesn't have to mean anything.

The key thing to realise here is that even though both companies have a formidable patent portfolio, it's not exactly clever for either company to go on a legal spree, waving patents around. "All you really need to know is that by suing Palm, Apple's putting its iPhone patents at risk, and that's an awful big ante," the attornies explain, "Same for Palm if it sues Apple and loses -- it stands the risk of losing its patents, and we'd bet it's making a tidy sum licensing at least some of them out to other companies."

It's something a lot of people have mentioned before: the software and hardware patent system is a house of cards. A lot of companies benefit from licensing deals for their patents, and suing a company would only expose their own patents as being rather useless. So, even though Apple and Palm might be infringing one another's patents, it doesn't have to mean that they're willing to start a big fight at the base of their house of cards.

Despite that, they don't think this case is just going to fade away, either. "More likely it's going to come down to whoever decides to blink first," Engadget writes, "and unless Palm decides to go out in a blaze of glory, files a declaratory judgment action and tries to preemptively invalidate Apple's patents, we'd say the first shot's going to come from Cupertino."

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