As we mentioned briefly during TiPb's live coverage of Apple's Q1 conference call yesterday, and our new sibling site, PreCentral.net elaborated on, Apple's Chief Operating Officer, Tim Cook, might have made a shot across Palm's bow when it comes to the Pre and Apple's multi-touch patents (text via Macworld):

We like competition, as long as they don't rip off our [intellectual property], and if they do, we're going to go after anyone who does. [...] Don't want to talk about any specific company, just making a general statement. We are ready to suit up and go against anyone. However, we will not stand for having our IP ripped off and will use whatever weapons we have at our disposal.

Recent capacitive touch devices like the Google Android and the BlackBerry Storm have steered very clear of anything even remotely resembling the iPhone's behaviors, but the Palm Pre duplicates many almost exactly (rubber banding, pinching, panel sliding, etc). Then again, Palm hired Rubinstein and many other Apple employees to round out the Pre team, didn't they?

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone at Macworld 2007, one of his big bullet points was "and boy have we patented it", so I guess now we can all sit back and see if we've got a fight on our hands. Will Apple go after Palm, and does Palm have any patents in their own portfolio to fight back with? (Because they sure don't have Apple's multi-billion dollar war chest behind them).

And yes, we know Jeff Han showed off many "Minority Report" style multi-touch behaviors long before the iPhone.

UPDATED: Apple filed for their own patents starting back in 2004, before Han, and also acquired a large amount of patents when they bought Fingerworks in 2005 (via Engadget comments).