Apple's Legal Showdown Over Multitouch Begins, With Palm Nowhere To Be Seen

You know the patent Cold War that's been brewing over Apple's claimed exclusivity over multitouch tech? It just got hotter, but the heat comes not from the Palm Pre, but lil' Elan Microelectronics.

Elan is a Taiwan-based touchpad manufacturer, best known for supplying the touchpads on several Eee PC models. And apparently they've got a well-leveraged patent position on multitouch tech: last year, Elan and touchpad giant Synaptics came to a cross-licensing agreement after an initial injunction in a similar lawsuit ruled in Elan's favour. The case was settled out of court.

As of now it's unclear what Elan is demanding, but it may be a last-ditch effort for a company struggling like so many other Chinese and Taiwanese OEM suppliers. But after their win over Synaptics, Elan is emboldened, thinking their legal position has some weight. Kind of like Afghanistan, maybe, in our little Cold War metaphor—the little fish that proves to be the graveyard of empires.

Whether Elan is being shadow controlled by Palm, or whether Palm execs are currently sending cases of thank-you champagne on the next container ship back to Taiwan, has yet to be verified. [NYTimes]

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