Could Apple be setting its legal sights on the Palm Pre? As you may (or may not) recall back when Apple first announced the iPhone in 2007, Steve Jobs proudly talked up how the company had numerous patents on the allegedly new technologies found inside the phone. The company has resisted using those particular patents against anyone until now, despite the growing number of iPhone-esque devices in the market, but that may be changing soon.

Talking to analysts in a financial conference call yesterday, executive Tim Cook responded to a question about sustaining leadership and the likelihood of Apple suing rivals over its multi touch technology, saying “we like competition, as long as our competitors don't rip off our IP. And we're going to go after anyone who does.” A follow-up question specifically mentioned the Palm Pre, and highlighted its potential similarity in terms of interface, but Cook declined to talk about any particular company.

Palm has yet to ship its Pre smartphone, but the device already impressed pretty much everyone at CES earlier this month, when it was introduced. It’s no wonder that Apple is watching so closely, even more so considering that Jon Rubinstein, who used to work on the iPod team, is now leading Palm’s research.