Steve Jobs threatened Palm with patent suits to prevent poaching

24 Jan 2013

Former Palm chief executive Edward Colligan said in a sworn affidavit that Steve Jobs threatened to sue Palm over the firms poaching of Apple employees.

According to court documents, unearthed by Reuters, Jobs called Colligan to inform him that he would sue Palm for patent infringement if the company continued to actively recruit Apple employees. Colligan says he rejected the threats on the grounds that anti-poaching pacts are unethical and illegal.

"Steve, we don't want to hurt Apple. As I said on the phone, Palm is focused on building the best team in the industry, and we know there is a lot of quality talent outside of Apple," wrote Colligan in a recently unearthed email sent to the Apple chief executive.

"On the other hand, this is a small space and it's inevitable that we will bump into each. Threatening Palm with a patent lawsuit in response to a decision by one employee to leave Apple is just out of line."

Colligan's account comes from a sworn affidavit that came to light during an ongoing civil court case. The case's prosecution alleges that Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit, Lucasfilm and Pixar created a pact that prevented the firms from hiring employees away from each other.

According to the court documents, Jobs telephoned Colligan to warn him that Apple would not stand for Palm poaching its employees. Jobs alleged that if Palm continued its hiring practices Apple would sue the firm using its extensive patent portfolio.

In his response email to Jobs, Colligan denied ever purposefully poaching Apple employees and dismissed his threats. He told Jobs that threats of a patent suit meant little as Palm had its own extensive patent portfolio.

"I want to be clear that we are not intimidated by your threat. Palm has a very robust portfolio of patents, having been in the handheld and smartphone business since the early 90s," continued Colligan in the email.

No-poaching pacts are something of an open secret in Silicon Valley. Many firms work together to keep good talent in-house and employee wages consistent. However, documents also underscore the willingness of some firms to use their patent portfolio as a weapon in all manner of disputes.

Newton could have been Apple's first smartphone

03 Jan 2013


Qualcomm chief executive Paul Jacobs pitched the idea of putting a cellular chip into Apple's imfamous PDA the Newton, according to a report by the Verge.

Jacobs claimed he tried convincing Apple to turn the Newton into a full blown smartphone. The disclosure is said to be part of an upcoming interview between Rose and the Qualcomm executive.

Apple shot down the idea but Jacobs eventually found a willing partner in Palm. Qualcomm used Palm's PDA OS to turn out the worlds first smartphone in 1999.

Qualcomm's PDQ ended up failing to garner much love. The PDA suffered from a bulky design and hefty price tag. However, Qualcomm's smartphone eventually ended up giving way to the likes of the iPhone a few years later.

The iPhone's fortune was most likely due to timing. In the mid-1990s the technology for a smartphone just wasn't available. It would take a few years before even the infrastructure for truly wireless data would come into existence.

But Jacobs's news is a good reminder that the iPhone development team wasn't working from a blank canvas. Steve Jobs and friends were not the only ones thinking up ways to create truly mobile communications.

The iPhone may not have even existed if it wasn't for the likes of the Newton and PDQ. You could even say the PalmPilot gave Apple some food for thought when making its line of iDevices.

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