Last week, during a financial conference call with analysts, Apple executive Tim Cook responded to a question about the likelihood of them suing rivals over its multi touch technology by saying that Apple would “not stand for having [its] IP ripped off.” Well, it appears that Apple has now gained a solid foothold to put competitors on thin legal ground, with the company being granted a major patent recently that covers multi touch and gesture controls on computing devices.

The Pre and phones from other competitors seem to directly encroach on the IP domain laid by Apple's new patent. Of course, many will argue that multi touch was around well before Apple came up with the iPhone, but indeed this was the first such product to implement the technology and competitors have scrambled to emulate its success ever since its launch in 2007. It remains to be seen how Apple chooses to protect their IP from “abuse” as it seems the recently awarded patent covers not only the smartphone market but also pretty much every computing device one can think of.

James Kendrick over at jkOnTheRun wrote a speculative piece on the matter, in which he suggests Apple could even target Microsoft with this new patent, telling them legally to cease and desist including multi touch in Windows 7 and other products. While that certainly is a possibility, a more immediate target is perhaps the Palm Pre, which has created a lot of expectation lately and is seen as Palm’s ticket to survival. Cook was particularly careful not to mention the upcoming smartphone during the financial conference call, so this is merely speculation for now, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple taking action once the Palm Pre is released. We’ll just have to wait and see.