How Adobe might take on Apple in the courts

Adobe still isn't saying if it will take Apple to court over Apple's new iPad/iPhone device software development rules, but here are some of the ways they might try.

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Since I wrote about Adobe considering taking Apple to court over the new iPad/iPhone SDK (software development kit) licensing restrictions, Adobe hasn't officially added anything to the story. And, neither have my sources. That said, I have spoken to several prominent attorneys about what Adobe might try to do and here is what they told me.

Before going into that though I've heard from some people asking why Adobe and Apple are at such loggerheads. It's true that historically the two companies have worked well together. You could argue that the pairing of the early Mac and Adobe Photoshop is what made both the Mac and Photoshop so popular. Over the years, though, the companies have also often not seen eye-to-eye. For example, Adobe has sometimes delayed Adobe software releases for the Mac platform in favor of Windows.

The immediate cause though is that, as a Slashdot commentator put it so well, "Apple changed the rules without telling Adobe. It's as if you worked for 2 years on a shiny sports car only to be told, 3 days before you'd be able to take it on the road, that its category had been banned from using the roads ever again. I don't think Adobe would've been that p**sed off had Apple told them BEFORE they started working on their Flash exporter." By handicapping Adobe in the already lucrative iPhone/iPod Touch software development market and the remarkably hot iPad market, Adobe has apparently decided that enough is enough.

Now the question is how to go about it. No matter what route Adobe chooses, it won't be easy.

As Thomas Carey, chairman of the business practice group at Sunstein, a technology and intellectual property law firm, observed: "Adobe could sue on antitrust grounds, arguing that Apple has market power in the smartphone and tablet computer markets, that it is locking Adobe out as a competitor for app sales, and that it has no rational basis for doing so.

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